Unionism (Trade Unionism) - HRM BBA Note- Bikram Adhikari


A     trade     union     is     any     combination      of      persons,      whether       temporary       or       permanent.     The     primary     purpose  of  a  trade  union  is  to    regulate    the    relations    between        workers        and        employers       or       between       workers  and  workers.  They  are a major component of the modern  LRs  system.  A  trade union of workers' is an organization formed by workers to protect their interests, improve their working conditions, etc. All trade unions have objectives or goals to achieve. They are contained in their constitution and each has its own strategy to reach those goals. 

DeCenzo  &  Robbins:"A  union  is  an  organization  of  workers,  working  collectively,  seeking  to  promote and protect its mutual interests through collective bargaining.

G.D.H.  Cole:"A  trade  union  means  an  association  of  workers  in  one  or  more  professions  –  an  association  carried  mainly  for  the  purpose  of  protecting  and  advancing  the  members'  economic  interests in connection with their daily work."

Roverts Dictionery of IRs:"It is an association of workers in a particular trade or a craft organized to  promote  a  common  interest  and  to  further  that  interest  through  negotiation  of  wages,  hours  and other conditions of employment.

Conclusion: It may be observed from the above definitions and discussions that:  

a.      A  trade  union  is  an  association,  either  of  employees  or  employers  or  of  independent  workers. 

b. It is a relatively permanent combination of workers. 

c. It is an association of workers engaged in securing economic benefits for its members. 

d.      Trade      unions      characteristics      have been constantly changing. e. Its origin and growth has been influenced by a number of ideologies.

(Note:  Our  focus  in  this  section  is  only  on  workers.  There  are  other  associations  which  are  also  trade  unions like employers' organizations, which is not discussed in this section). 

In summary, a trade union is a bargaining device. It enables a group, a class in industry or trade to  bargain  with  any  other  class  or  group  on  equal  footing.  Such  a  union  is  economically  oriented.   It   is   an   instrument   of   defense   against   exploitation.   It   is   also   an   outcome   of   industrialization; and implies class distinction.

Basic Characteristics of a Union

Trade  unions  are  representatives  of  workers  and/  or  employers  as  well.  They  try  to  protect  their members' interests or rights. They are the special kinds of groups. They are formed based on certain Acts or Rules where they exist. They contain certain features or characteristics. From the careful study of the various definitions of trade union we can sum up the basic facts or characteristics as follows:

a. An association of employees:  

Basically a trade union is an association of employees. But in  a  broader  sense  it  may  be  an  association  either  of  the  employer  or  employees  or  of  independent  workers.  In  other  words,  they  belong  to  a  particular  class  of  employment,  profession, trade or industry. For example, there are unions for workers, teachers, doctors, and so on. 

b. Voluntary in nature: 

They are basically voluntary in nature, in most of the cases. In some cases,  the  membership  of  a  union  may  be  even  compulsory.  An  employee  joins  the  trade  union  out  of  his/her  free  will,  in  majority  of  the  cases.  A  person  cannot  be  compelled  to  join a union. 

c.  Relatively  permanent  in  nature:  

Trade  unions  are  relatively  permanent  association  of  workers.  Basically  they  are  not  temporary  or  casual.  The  purpose  of  trade  union  is  not  merely  immediate  but  continuous.  So,  to  get  the  long-term  benefit,  they  are  relatively  permanent in nature. 

d. Securing economic benefits:

 Trade union is an association of workers who are engaged in securing  economic  benefits  for  their  members.  Its  primary  purpose  is  to  secure  control  of  supply  of  labour  in  the  market.  Control  strategy  is  taken  as  a  means  of  fixing  price  of  labour as well as the conditions of work. 

e.      Constantly      changing:      

The  concept  of  trade  union  is  dynamic.  The  character  of  trade  unions   has   been   constantly   changing.   Change   is   inevitable   because   of   the   rapid   development  of  technology  and  systems  of  productions.  These  developments  create  various  new  problems.  Therefore,  the  unions  change  their  methods  and  their  working  to  adjust themselves to suit the changing circumstances. 

f.      Common      interests:     

 It is another basic feature of trade unions. In other words, the members of  a  trade  union  have  certain  matters  of  common  interest.  The  examples  are  job  security,  better  pay,  better  working  conditions,  and  fair  treatment  and  so  on.  Those  interests,  actually, have brought them together. If interests contradict, they cannot perform well. 

g. Influenced by ideologies: 

The origin and growth of trade unions have been influenced by a  number  of  ideologies.  In  capitalism  trade  unions  are  considered  as  the  product  of  democratic  principle.  In  communism  trade  unions  are  considered  as  the  product  of  autocratic  principle.  But  in  recent  years,  many  unions  have  started  leaving  the  political  ideology  and  started  working  independently.  They  are  also  called  free  or  professional  unions.

Reasons for Joining Trade Unions (Why do workers join a trade union?)

The  reasons  for  joining  trade  unions  are  many.  Some  individuals  join  them  to  satisfy  specific  needs. But in most of the cases they try to get multiple benefits from joining the trade unions. Workers join trade unions because of following reasons/benefits. 

a.  To  get  economic  security:  

That  is,  they  want  continuous  employment  with  an  adequate  income. A single worker can't do this alone, so they join union. In other words, getting job security and/or economic security is the first and most important reason behind joining a union. The philosophy popular among the workers is "united we stand, divided we fall".

b.     To  block  management  from  undue  action:  

Employees  join  the  union  to  block  the  management from taking any action which is irrational, illogical, and discriminatory to the interests  of  labour.  Workers  desire  that  the  assignment  of  jobs,  transfers  promotions,  the  maintenance of discipline, lay-offs, retirement, rewards and punishment should be on the basis of a pre-determined policy and on the basis of what is fair and just. 

c.  Communication  and  participation:  

Workers  join  unions  to  communicate  their  views,  aims,  ideas,  feelings  and  frustrations  to  the  management. They want to have an effective voice in discussions which affect their welfare. The research result indicates that, if there is a strong union in an organization, the management cannot be autocratic and vice-versa. 

d.      Social      security:  

Employees  join  trade  union  to  secure  protection  from  economic  hazards  (risks)  beyond  their  control.  Employees  join  trade  union  to  protect,  themselves  from illness,  accident,  death,  disability,  unemployment,  etc.  In  other  words,  employees  join  trade  union  to  get  the  better  kind  of  social  security  schemes  which  they  think  are  not  possible if they do not join the union. 

e. To get a job: 

Trade union members can easily get the job through the help of a trade union. It  is  easy  to  get  the  job  through  union  help  than  a  single  person's  effort.  In  some  of  the  organizations getting a job is not possible if they do not join union. 

Functions of Trade Unions

Trade unions are formed and developed to achieve certain predetermined objectives. They have been  discussed  in  above  paragraphs.  To  achieve  those  objectives  they  involved  in  different  kinds  of  functions.  They  perform  those  functions  to  get  certain  benefits  which  they  think  are  important to them.Major functions of trade unions are: 

1.       Militant       or       protective       functions:   

These   functions   include       protecting       the       workers'  interests,  i.e.,  hike  in   wages,   providing   more   benefits,   job   security,   etc.   Unions         fulfill         those         demands, through collective bargaining and direct action such as strikes, gheraos, etc. Protective  functions  include  the  welfare  schemes  of  unions.  It  includes  improvement  of  activities like wages, rest interval, sanitation, safety, continuity of employment and so on. All  these  functions  of  unions  are  termed  as  militant  functions.  To  achieve  them  the  weapons   used   by   them   are   strike   and   other   economic   weapons   in   case   collective   bargaining fails. 

2.      Fraternal      functions:    

These    functions    include    providing  financial  and  non-financial  assistance  to  workers.   Those   assistance   are   given   during   the   periods   of   strikes   and   lock   outs,   extension   of   medical  facilities  during  sickness  and  causalities,  provision  of  education,  recreational  and  housing  facilities,  provision  of  social  and  religious  benefits,  etc. On other hand, they are the functions of the unions which  are  carried  on  to  help  the  members  in  times  of need. They also include provision of educational, recreational  and  housing  facilities  by  the  unions.  The unions raise funds in the form of subscriptions from  their  members  to  grant  number  of  benefits  to  the  subscribers.  Such  functions  are  very  important.  They  are  important  because  they  inculcate  the  spirit  of  co-operation  amongst  the  members  who  are  to  subscribe  funds  for  the common interests.

3.      Political         functions:         

These         functions   include   affiliating   the   union  with  a  political  party,  and  helping    the    political    party    in    enrolling  members.  They  also  go  through      collecting      donations,      seeking    the    help    of    political    parties    during    the    periods    of    strikes and lockouts. The  history  of  trade  unionism  in  our    country    records    profound    effects of political leaders. The political colour given to the unions is to strive for realisation of its economic objectives. It is achieved through legislative and administrative measures. The  unions  are  authorised  to  have  a  fund  for  political  purposes.  They  use  that  fund  on  election of labour representatives and also for holding of political meetings. 

4.      Social      functions: 

Trade unions are not only bargaining entities. Rather they are also social groups. They perform several social works that is demanded by the general public. These functions    include    carrying    out    social    service    activities.    They    discharge    social    responsibilities through various sections of the society like educating the customers, etc.

The  Nepalese  Context:  According  to  Nepalese  Trade  Union  Act  1990,  the  primary  function  of  trade  unions  is  that  they  must  work  to  protect  and  promote  the  interest  of  the  workers  and  conditions of their employment. However beside the primary functions discussed earlier, trade unions in Nepal are committed to undertake under-mentioned functions: 

i. To secure better wages and living conditions for their members. 

ii. To acquire the control of industry by workers. 

iii..   To provide workers self confidence and a feeling of identity in the organization. 

iv.     To enforce sincerity and discipline in workers. 

v. To make up welfare measures for improving morale of the workers. 

Related Posts

Post a Comment