Growth of Trade Unions:
The trade-union is a phenomenon of the modern industrialized society. It is a group of workers engaged in a particular trade for the purposes of securing better wages, shorter hours of work and improved conditions of labour. In the modern capitalistic society the worker is a hired employee with little attachment to the factory or office other than to his wages.
The early trade unions were small organizations of working men seeking some means of mitigating their weakness against the employer. They had, however, to face the hostility of Government. Both in England and on the Continent the workers were prevented from exercising the right of uniting for self defence.
Thus, in 1729 the Irish Parliament passed a statute whereby combinations of any trade were prohibited. The British Act of 1799 was a very strong measure penalizing the workers unions.
“The operatives combinations”, wrote Weber, “were regarded as being in the nature of a mutiny against their employers and masters; destructive of the discipline necessary to the expansion of trade; and interfering with the right of the employer to do what he liked with his own capital.
“However, little by little the truth began to dawn on many minds that the workers had a right to unite in order to be capable of defending themselves against the capitalists and their pressure upon the Government.
Thus in modern times the triad unions are not merely tolerated but also recognized as essential in the economic structure of the country. Their size and number have greatly increased and now they play a significant role in the determination of wages, working hours and conditions.
Aims of a Trade Union: The trade union in India is primarily an economic organization organized for economic struggle. It’s essential function is to strengthen the economic status of its members and improve their working conditions.
It is primarily concerned to promote the economic interests of the workers. But in England and America trade union has placed before itself ambitious goals. It has become an integral part of industrial management.
The management has incorporated labourasan intrinsic part of the managerial apparatus rather than as individual hired hands. The unions have gained control or near control in many areas of industrial management. Methods of a Trade Union: The methods which the trade union adopts for getting its demands accepted are various and varied.
First, it believes in collective bargaining which means that the representatives of the union shall meet the representatives of the employing concern and settle terms with them regarding wage scales, hours of work and other conditions of work. If the method of collective bargaining fails, resort may be had to arbitration.
Under arbitration representatives of both the capita and labour are appointed who reach a decision by which both abide. The trade unions generally object to compulsory arbitration. If no decision is reached at arbitration the trade union resorts to strikes. The strike is a powerful weapon.
It stops production and profits. The consumes are put to difficulties. The world comes to know that a group of workers is on strike and is not being fairly treated by the employer. If the strike occurs in some big public concern like Posts and Telegraphs, Railways, Coal and Steel, then the entire social life is paralyzed.
That is why recently the Government in India has banned strikes in essential services. In a strike the workers lay down their tools, stop work and walk out. If there is apprehension that the employer will bring in other workers to take their places they resort to picketing whereby members are stationed or walk back and forth in front of the business establishment whose workers are out on strike.
In recent decades the strike is said to have become a menace to the public. It causes scarcity of goods and brings starvation to the door of the poor. The public is put to embarrassing situations.
The production having gone down the nation suffers. There is no disagreement that strikes are harmful to the country’s interests but the question is “how are the workers to get a redress of their grievances ii modern capitalistic age wherein the capitalists wield great influence in the Government?” If labour cannot strike the employers should be forbidden to exercise “lock-out”.
The trade union is not interested in stopping the work of paralyzing the economic life of the society. What it is interested in is a fair deal j for its members at the hand of the employer.
It protests against the prejudices, the lack of sympathy and comprehension, and the distrust shown by the capitalist employer. It asks for more pay, shorter hours and better conditions of work for the same reason that the capitalist always wants more profit and more leisure.
If differences between the labour and capital are discussed by their representatives frankly and in a friendly manner and if they have the spirit to accommodate each other not making unreasonable or impracticable demands, the labour-capital problems would be easily solved. The labour problems will never develop if capitalism has the social vision and the willingness to correct its own weaknesses.