Features Of Trade Unions Management Essay

A trade union is an organization of employees formed on a continuous basis for the purpose of securing diverse range of benefits. It is a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining and improving the conditions of their working lives


Section 2(h) of the Trade Unions Act, 1926 has defined a trade union as”Any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purposeof regulating the relations between workmen and employers, or between workmen andworkmen, or between employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions onthe conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more tradeunions.” This definition is very exhaustive as it includes associations of both the workers andemployers and the federations of their associations.

In this definition the relationships that have been talked about are both temporary and permanent. Please note that it applies to temporary workers as well.Then this definition talks about three relationships. They are relationship between the:Workmen and workmenWorkmen and employersEmployers and employers.

Dale Yoder has defined trade union as a continuing long – term association of employeesformed and maintained for the specific purpose of advancing and protecting the interestsof members in their working relationships.He quotes: “A trade union is a continuous association of workers which is formed withthe purpose of protecting the interests of workers.” 

According to Flippo “A labour union or trade union is an organisation of workers formedto promote, protect, and improve, through collective action, the social, economic, and political interests of its members”.

Features of trade unions:

It is an association either of employers or employees or of independent workers. They may consist of :-

Employers’ association (eg., Employer’s Federation of India, Indian paper mill association, etc.)

General labor unions

Friendly societies

Unions of intellectual labor (eg, All India Teachers Association)

It is formed on a continuous basis. It is a permanent body and not a casual or temporary one. They persist throughout the year.

It includes federations of trade unions also.

It is formed to protect and promote all kinds of interests -economic, political and social-of its members. The dominant interest with which a union is concerned is, however, economic.

It achieves its objectives through collective action and group effort. Negotiations and collective bargaining are the tools for accomplishing objectives.

Trade unions have shown remarkable progress since their inception; moreover, the character of trade unions has also been changing. In spite of only focusing on the economic benefits of workers, the trade unions are also working towards raising the status of labors as a part of industry.

Objectives of Trade Union

Workers organise themselves in the form of a union to achieve the following goals:

To improve the economic lot of employees by securing for them better wages.

To secure better working conditions for the workers.

To secure bonus for the employees from the profit of the concern,

To resist schemes of the management which reduce employment, e.g.,rationalisation and automation.

To secure welfare of employees through group schemes which give benefit toevery employee.

To protect the interests of employees by taking active participation in themanagement.

To secure social welfare of the employees.

To secure organisational stability, growth, and leadership.

Trade unions are formed to protect and promote the interests of their members. Their primary function is to protect the interests of workers against discrimination and unfair labor practices. Trade unions are formed to achieve the following objectives:


Trade unions represent individual workers when they have a problem at work. If an employee feels he is being unfairly treated, he can ask the union representative to help sort out the difficulty with the manager or employer. Unions also offer their members legal representation. Normally this is to help people get financial compensation for work-related injuries or to assist people who have to take their employer to court.


Negotiation is where union representatives, discuss with management, the issues which affect people working in an organization. There may be a difference of opinion between management and union members. Trade unions negotiate with the employers to find out a solution to these differences. Pay, working hours, holidays and changes to working practices are the sorts of issues that are negotiated. In many workplaces there is a formal agreement between the union and the company which states that the union has the right to negotiate with the employer. In these organizations, unions are said to be recognized for collective bargaining purposes.

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Voice in decisions affecting workers

The economic security of employees is determined not only by the level of wages and duration of their employment, but also by the management’s personal policies which include selection of employees for lay offs, retrenchment, promotion and transfer. These policies directly affect workers. The evaluation criteria for such decisions may not be fair. So, the intervention of unions in such decision making is a way through which workers can have their say in the decision making to safeguard their interests.

Member services

During the last few years, trade unions have increased the range of services they offer their members. These include:

Education and training – Most unions run training courses for their members on employment rights, health and safety and other issues. Some unions also help members who have left school with little education by offering courses on basic skills and courses leading to professional qualifications.

Legal assistance – As well as offering legal advice on employment issues, some unions give help with personal matters, like housing, wills and debt.

Financial discounts – People can get discounts on mortgages, insurance and loans from unions.

Welfare benefits – One of the earliest functions of trade unions was to look after members who hit hard times. Some of the older unions offer financial help to their members when they are sick or unemployed.

Essentials of a Successful Trade Union

l. Should have a social foundation, so that it may be strong enough to achieve success in the realisation of its objectives.

2. Should have clearly enumerated objectives and a coherent and well conceived policy, and it should consider itself a business organisation which requires careful planning and sound organisational methods for its success.

3. Should be an enlightened one, so that it may be able to guide and direct the Trade Union movement properly. This presupposes the existence of correct and effective leadership which should come from the rank and file of its members and subject to their support or rejection. The union should be run “by the members for the members”.

4. Should have honesty and integrity of purposes not only in financial matters but to its relationship with employer, to the formulation of its polices and evaluation of its performances.

5. Should have a sense of responsibility

a) To be internally strong that it may be effective in protecting the interests of workers.

b) To me its economic power in a careful and responsible way

c) To be democratic so that the worker’s right to self government becomes a reality.


Trade unions perform a number of functions in order to achieve the objectives. These functions can be broadly classified into three categories:

(i) Militant functions,

(ii) Fraternal functions

Militant Functions

One set of activities performed by trade unions leads to the betterment of the position of their members in relation to their employment. The aim of such activities is to ensure adequate wages, secure better conditions of work and employment, get better treatment from employers, etc. When the unions fail to accomplish these aims by the method of

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collective bargaining and negotiations, they adopt an approach and put up a fight with the management in the form of go-slow tactics, strike, boycott, gherao, etc. Hence, these functions of the trade unions are known as militant or fighting functions. Thus, the militant functions of trade unions can be summed up as:

To achieve higher wages and better working conditions

To raise the status of workers as a part of industry

To protect labors against victimization and injustice

Fraternal Functions

Another set of activities performed by trade unions aims at rendering help to its members in times of need, and improving their efficiency. Trade unions try to foster a spirit of cooperation and promote friendly industrial relations and diffuse education and culture among their members. They take up welfare measures for improving the morale of workers and generate self confidence among them. They also arrange for legal assistance to its members, if necessary. Besides, these, they undertake many welfare measures for their members, e.g., school for the education of children, library, reading-rooms, in-door and out-door games, and other recreational facilities. Some trade unions even undertake publication of some magazine or journal. These activities, which may be called fraternal functions, depend on the availability of funds, which the unions raise by subscription from members and donations from outsiders, and also on their competent and enlightened leadership. Thus, the fraternal functions of trade unions can be summed up as:

To take up welfare measures for improving the morale of workers

To generate self confidence among workers

To encourage sincerity and discipline among workers

To provide opportunities for promotion and growth

To protect women workers against discrimination

Importance of Trade Unions

The existence of a strong and recognized trade union is a pre-requisite to industrial peace. Decisions taken through the process of collective bargaining and negotiations between employer and unions are more influential. Trade unions play an important role and are helpful in effective communication between the workers and the management. They provide the advice and support to ensure that the differences of opinion do not turn into major conflicts. The central function of a trade union is to represent people at work. But they also have a wider role in protecting their interests. They also play an important educational role, organizing courses for their members on a wide range of matters. Seeking a healthy and safe working environment is also prominent feature of union activity.

Trade unions help in accelerated pace of economic development in many ways as follows:

by helping in the recruitment and selection of workers.

by inculcating discipline among the workforce

by enabling settlement of industrial disputes in a rational manner

by helping social adjustments. Workers have to adjust themselves to the new working conditions, the new rules and policies. Workers coming from different backgrounds may become disorganized, unsatisfied and frustrated. Unions help them in such adjustment.

Trade unions are a part of society and as such, have to take into consideration the national integration as well. Some important social responsibilities of trade unions include:

promoting and maintaining national integration by reducing the number of industrial disputes

incorporating a sense of corporate social responsibility in workers

achieving industrial peace

Reasons For Joining Trade Union

The important forces that make the employees join a union are as follows:

1. Greater Bargaining Power

The individual employee possesses very little bargaining power as compared to that of his employer. If he is not satisfied with the wage and other conditions of employment, he can leave the job. It is not practicable to continually resign from one job after another when he is dissatisfied. This imposes a great financial and emotional burden upon the worker. The better course for him is to join a union that can take concerted action against the employer. The threat or actuality of a strike by a union is a powerful tool that often causes the employer to accept the demands of the workers for better conditions of employment.

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2. Minimize Discrimination

The decisions regarding pay, work, transfer, promotion, etc. are highly subjective in nature. The personal relationships existing between the supervisor and each of his subordinates may influence the management. Thus, there are chances of favoritisms and discriminations. A trade union can compel the management to formulate personnel policies that press for equality of treatment to the workers. All the labor decisions of the management are under close scrutiny of the labor union. This has the effect of minimizing favoritism and discrimination.

3. Sense of Security

The employees may join the unions because of their belief that it is an effective way to secure adequate protection from various types of hazards and income insecurity such as accident, injury, illness, unemployment, etc. The trade union secure retirement benefits of the workers and compel the management to invest in welfare services for the benefit of the workers.

4. Sense of Participation

The employees can participate in management of matters affecting their interests only if they join trade unions. They can influence the decisions that are taken as a result of collective bargaining between the union and the management.

5. Sense of Belongingness

Many employees join a union because their co-workers are the members of the union. At times, an employee joins a union under group pressure; if he does not, he often has a very difficult time at work. On the other hand, those who are members of a union feel that they gain respect in the eyes of their fellow workers. They can also discuss their problem with’ the trade union leaders.

6. Platform for self expression

The desire for self-expression is a fundamental human drive for most people. All of us wish to share our feelings, ideas and opinions with others. Similarly the workers also want the management to listen to them. A trade union provides such a forum where the feelings, ideas and opinions of the workers could be discussed. It can also transmit the feelings, ideas, opinions and complaints of the workers to the management. The collective voice of the workers is heard by the management and give due consideration while taking policy decisions by the management.

7. Betterment of relationships

Another reason for employees joining unions is that employees feel that unions can fulfill the important need for adequate machinery for proper maintenance of employer-employee relations. Unions help in betterment of industrial relations among management and workers by solving the problems peacefully.

Criticism of Trade Unions by the Employers

The employers have subjected trade unions to severe criticism. Some of the charges areas under:

Lack of education makes the workers narrow-minded, and prevents them from taking long-term views. Thus, anything, which does not result in an immediate reward, becomes unattractive to them. This attitude is responsible for many strikes and lock-outs in industrial concerns.

Trade unions may not welcome rationalisation and improved methods of  production for the fear that some of the workers will be put out of work.Therefore, they resort to go slow policy that retards industrial progress

When labour unions strike because of illogical grounds, incalculable losses occur to producers, community and the nation. These are harmful to the workers also.They suffer because of the loss of wages

They create artificial scarcity of labour by demanding that only union personnel should be employed. 

By undue insistence on the payment of standard rates of wages, they have onlyleveled down the earnings of the efficient workers.

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