A trade union is a formal association of workers that promotes and protects the interests of its members through collective action. Under the Trade Union Act of 1926, the term is defined as any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business and includes any federation of two or more unions. Let us examine the definition in parts: i. Trade union is an association either of employees or employers or of independent Industrial Relation workers.
ii. It is a relatively permanent formation of workers. It is not a temporary or casual combination of workers. It is formed on a continuous basis.
iii. It is formed for securing certain economic (like better wages, better working and living conditions) and social (such as educational, recreational, medical, respect for individual) benefits to members. Collective strength offers a sort of insurance cover
to members to fight against irrational, arbitrary and illegal actions of employers.
Members can share their feelings, exchange notes and fight the employer quite effectively whenever he goes off the track
iv. It includes a federation of trade unions also.
v. It emphasises joint, coordinated action and collective bargaining.
The failure of an individual worker to seek solutions to problems, while discharging his duties, personal as well as organisational, led workers to form a formal group which is identified at present as trade union. Thus, the main objective of any trade union is to protect the interest of workers/employees in the organisation. However, the workers’ interest/welfare is a broad term in which various subjects - wages and salaries, working conditions, working hours, transfers, promotions, recruitment and classification, training, discipline, leave and holidays, dearness allowance, bonus, incentives, quarters, sanitation, employee relations, mechanisation, facilities to unions, welfare, employee relations and the like are included. Thus, a trade union is meant to conduct negotiations on behalf of the individual workers in respect of several items. However, trade unions specifically concentrate their attention to achieve the following objectives:
Wages and Salaries
The subject which drew the major attention of the trade unions is wages and salaries. Of course, this item may be related to policy matters. However, differences may arise in the process of their implementation. In the case of unorganised sector the trade union plays a crucial role in bargaining the pay scales.
Working conditions
Trade unions with a view to safeguard the health of workers demands the management to provide all the basic facilities such as, lighting and ventilation, sanitation, rest rooms, safety equipment while discharging hazardous duties, drinking water, refreshment, minimum working hours, leave and rest, holidays with pay, job satisfaction, social security benefits and other welfare measures.
Trade unions not only conduct negotiations in respect of the items with which their working conditions may be improved but also protect the workers from the clutches of management whenever workers become the victims of management’s unilateral acts and disciplinary policies. This victimisation may take the form of penal transfers, suspensions, dismissals, etc. In such a situation the separated worker who is left in a helpless condition may approach the trade union. Ultimately the problem may be brought to the notice of management by the trade union and it explains about the injustice meted out to an individual worker and fights the management for justice. Thus, the victimised worker may be protected by the trade union.
As stated earlier, trade unions are meant for the welfare of workers. Trade union works as a guide, consulting authority and cooperates in overcoming the personnel problems of workers. It may bring to the notice of management, through collective bargaining meetings, the difficulties of workers in respect of sanitation, hospitals, quarters, schools and colleges for their children’s cultural and social problems.

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