Everything you need to know about the functions of trade union. Trade unions are formed to protect and promote the interests of their members.

The primary function of trade union is to protect the interests of workers against discrimination and unfair labor practices. A trade union is an organized group of workers. Its main goal is to protect and advance the interests of its members.

A union often negotiates agreements with employers on pay and conditions. It may also provide legal and financial advice, sickness benefits and education facilities to its members.

Trade unions aim to represent the interests of people at work and negotiate with employers for better terms and conditions for their members.


Trade union is a body representing employee’s views with their employers. Union members elect a shop steward to represent them in negotiations with the employers.

The various functions of trade union are:-

1. Internal Functions 2. External Functions 3. Political Functions 4. Social Functions 5. Ancillary Function

6. General Functions 7. Militant Functions 8. Service and Support Functions 9. Fraternal Functions and 10. Special Functions.

Functions of Trade Union: Internal, External, Political, Social and Ancillary Functions

Functions of Trade Unions – 4 Functions Relating to Members, Organization, Union Activities and Society

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. A trade union is an organized group of workers. Its main goal is to protect and advance the interests of its members. A union often negotiates agreements with employers on pay and conditions. It may also provide legal and financial advice, sickness benefits and education facilities to its members.


Trade unions aim to represent the interests of people at work and negotiate with employers for better terms and conditions for their members. Trade union is a body representing employee’s views with their employers. Union members elect a shop steward to represent them in negotiations with the employers. The nature of employment organization- (i) Approaches to industrial relations (ii) Unitary perspective.

The objectives and, consequently, the functions performed by trade unions to achieve those objectives are not static phenomena but change over the period of time. For example, in pre- independent India, when All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was formed in 1920, one of its objectives was to fight against the British rule for independence. Now, this objective is over.

In the present context, trade unions function to achieve the following objectives:


1. To defend or improve the level of wages and working conditions for their members.

2. To replace managerial unilateral actions by mutually-agreed upon actions.

In order to achieve both these objectives, trade unions perform functions relating to their members, the organization concerned, to themselves, and the society as a whole. In each category, their functions differ.

Function # 1. Relating to Members:

In relation to their members, trade unions perform the following functions:


i. To provide safeguard against all sorts of unfair management practices related to employees.

ii. To ensure healthy, safe, and conducive working conditions.

iii. To exert pressure for enhancement of rewards associated with work performance.

iv. To ensure suitable standard of living by assisting management in providing various types of social services — health, housing, educational, recreational, cooperative service, and widening the scope of social security.


v. To encourage workers’ participation in management in the organization concerned.

vi. To raise the level of status of the workers in the organization as well as in the society.

vii. To provide counselling to the members for refraining from social evils.

viii. To provide financial and other help to the members in the case of emergencies.

Function # 2. Relating to Organization:


In relation to the organization, trade unions perform the following functions:

i. To lay down the production norms quantitatively and qualitatively in consultation with the management.

ii. To help the organization in maintaining discipline and redressing grievances of employees.

iii. To provide a chain of communication between management and employees.

iv. To impress upon the management the need for adopting reformative, and not punitive, approach towards employees.

v. To help the organization to arrange various services and welfare activities for employees.

vi. To put pressure on the management for adoption of fair practices for employees.

Function # 3. Relating to Union Activities:

In relation to performing various activities of the trade unions, functions involved are as follows:

i. To formulate policies and plans consistent with the objectives.

ii. To develop leadership among the members for their greater participation in union activities.

iii. To improve the communication network between the unions and their members.

iv. To prevent inter-union rivalry and thereby to help in the creation of unified trade union movement.

v. To maintain records of various activities, funds and their utilization, and members.

Function # 4. Relating to Society:

In relation to society, trade unions perform the following functions:

i. To participate actively in the development of programmes for family planning, national integration, etc.

ii. To launch campaigns against various social evils.

iii. To help employees of unorganized sector to organize.

iv. To put pressure on the government policies which are inconsistent with social requirement.

Functions of Trade Union In Industrialized Countries

Primarily trade unions serve as a means of achieving working class desires and goals.

Thus their major functions in most of industrialized countries of the world are:

(a) To promote, defend and protect the interest of their members.

(b) To maintain and improve the living standards of their members.

(c) To negotiate with employers over wages and other terms of employment through the process of collective bargaining.

(d) To enter into agreements with a view to provide economic benefits high wages, fringe benefits, better working conditions and facilities.

(e) To provide security of their jobs; to make a grievance procedure for its members.

(f) To organise and to guide the workers.

(g) Trade unions have a strong impact on management organisation any decisions as a matter of policy taken by the management are influenced by trade union contracts.

(h) On the governmental side trade unions serve as an agency for industrial democracy advocating for the workers’ rights to raise a voice in the determination of their “working conditions” and to render them protection against arbitrary and unfair treatment on their jobs.

The National Commission on Labour has pointed out the following basic functions on which die trade unions has to pay greater attention:

(a) To secure for workers fair wages.

(b) To promote individual and collective welfare.

(c) To safeguard security of tenure and improve conditions of service.

(d) To offer responsive cooperation in improving levels of production and productivity, discipline and high standard of quality.

(e) To enlarge opportunities for promotion and training.

(f) To promote identity of interests of the workers with their industry.

(g) To improve working and living conditions.

(h) To cooperate in and facilitate technological advance by broadening the understanding of workers on its underlying issues.

(i) To proceed for educational, cultural and recreational facilities.

Functions of Trade Union – In Modern Industrial Economy: Internal Functions, External Functions, Political Functions and a Few Other Functions

The functions of trade unions in modern industrial economy are varied.

They are:

(a) Internal Functions:

Internal functions of a trade union include the work inside the factory for labour welfare. The trade unions try to get fair wages, fair deal from the management implementation of labour laws, improvement in working conditions and profits of the enterprise. The trade unions represent workers on the collective bargaining tables.

(b) External Functions:

Such functions include the activities which are done outside the factory premises. The main object of these activities is to increase the efficiency of workers and make their life happier and better. Unions try to foster friendship and cooperation among the workers and the management.

(c) Political Functions:

Nowadays trade union movement has become very strong and militant too. In a number of countries they are being organised as a political power. For example, in UK the labour party is a very strong political party. In India too all leading political parties have their labour wings such as – INTUC, ATTUC, BMS, Kamgar Sabha, etc.

(d) Social Functions:

These functions include carrying out social service activities discharging social responsibilities through various section of the society like educating the customers.

(e) Ancillary Function:

Ancillary functions of trade unions include:

(i) Communications – Trade unions communicate its activities, programmes, decisions, achievements, etc., to its members through publication of news letters or magazines.

(ii) Welfare activities – Trade unions undertake welfare activities like acquiring of house sites, construction of houses, establishment of cooperative housing societies, cooperative credit societies, organising training activities, etc.

(iii) Education – Trade unions provide educational facilities to its members and their family members.

(iv) Research – Trade unions arrange to conduct research programmes. They systematically and analyses date and information for collective bargaining, preparing of notes for union officials for court cases, etc. They also arrange to analyses macro data about the economy, industry and different sectors, etc.

Functions of Trade Union – Top 2 Functions: General and Special Functions

1. General Functions:

Functions of a trade union as per Indian Trade Unions Act 1926, include:

i. Achieving higher wages and congenial working and living conditions for its members.

ii. Exercising control of industry by workers.

iii. Increasing the resistance power of employees through the weapon of collective bargaining.

iv. Protecting workers against victimization and injustice of employers.

v. Enhancing the status of workers as partners of industry and citizens of the society by demanding worker’s participation in management.

vi. Infusing self-confidence in workers and instilling in them a sense that he is not a mere cog in the machine.

vii. Securing the implementation of welfare measures for boosting the morale of employees.

2. Special Functions:

The following are the special functions of trade unions:

i. Protective Function:

These functions encompass protecting the interest of workers such as hike in wages, getting more well-being measures, job security, etc., through collective bargaining and direct action.

ii. Social Function:

It covers rendering social obligations like members’ education, training, etc.

iii. Fraternal Function:

Assisting the workers in getting financial and non-financial assistance during the period of strike and lockout getting medical facilities during sickness and casualties facilitating provision of recreational and housing facilities come under fraternal function.

iv. Political Function:

Affiliation of union to a particular political party, helping political parties in increasing their enrolment, collecting donation, canvassing during election and seeking the help of political parties during strike and lockout are political functions.

v. Ancillary Functions:

a. Welfare Activities – Trade unions undertake welfare activities like purchasing plot for workers, construction of housing quarters, establishment of cooperative societies, credit societies, organizing training activities, etc.

b. Education – Trade unions arrange for getting educational facilities to its members and their family members.

c. Communication Service – Through publication of newsletters and magazines, it communicates its activities, programmes, decisions and achievements to its members.

d. Research – Unions systematically collect data, analyse the information and share the findings with the members. They supply vital inputs to office bearers for effective engagement in collective bargaining. They analyse the court verdict and communicate it to members. They also enlighten the members on the trend of macro-economic conditions of different sectors.

Functions of Trade Unions – 2 Important Categories: Militant Functions, Service and Support Functions

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. Service and support functions

Function # i. 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 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:

a. To achieve higher wages and better working conditions

b. To raise the status of workers as a part of industry

c. To protect labours against victimization and injustice

Function # ii. Service and Support 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 functions of trade unions can be summed up as:

a. To take up welfare measures for improving the morale of workers

b. To generate self confidence among workers

c. To encourage sincerity and discipline among workers

d. To provide opportunities for promotion and growth

e. To protect women workers against discrimination

Functions of Trade Unions – Depending on the Size of Union and Other Relevant Factors

Although there are great variations in the functions being discharged by trade unions in our country depending on the size of the union and other relevant factors, their functions are categorised under the following heads –

1. Intra-Mural/Fighting/Militant Functions:

Such functions are usually performed within the premises of the factory and mainly aim at improving the economic and physical betterment of the workers. Thus, these functions may include ensuring fair wages, sharing gains of increased productivity, securing more fringe benefits, securing better working conditions, sharing prof­its, WPM and control over industry, if feasible.

In order to carry out these functions, trade unions negotiate, enter into collective bargaining and, if not successful, may resort to strikes, boycotts, violence and the like means. That is why these functions are also called militant or fighting functions. These are the main functions carried out by Indian trade unions.

2. Extra-Mural/Fraternal Functions:

These functions aim at extending help to workers at the time of their needs like during the period of strike, and also improving the efficiency of the workers and making their life happier.

These extra-mural functions may include help­ing the workers financially and otherwise during the period of strike, lockout or unemploy­ment; extending legal facilities if required; providing welfare facilities; and so on. How far a trade union will perform these functions will depend on its financial position. Indian trade unions, by and large, have not been able to do anything significant in this regard.

3. Political Functions:

A number of unions contest elections and try to capture political power. Some of them have been successful in this regard as is the case in the UK where the Labour Party has been the ruling party several times. In India, the trade unions are not that well organised, but through their affiliated trade unions, every major political party tries to create and secure its vote bank.

4. Auxiliary/Supporting Functions:

Besides the aforesaid functions, trade unions perform cer­tain supporting functions also like publishing its newsletters, bulletins, periodicals and maga­zines. Some unions collect relevant data and compile it for its use at appropriate time.

Functions of Trade Unions – Militant Functions, Ministrant Functions, Political Functions and Other Functions

The functions of trade unions can be divided into three categories:

1. Militant Functions:

For better terms and conditions of employment, improvement in working conditions, like in wages, regulation of working hours, job security etc. the trade union performs militant activities such as strikes, boy­cotts and gheraos etc.

2. Ministrant Functions:

To provide financial and non-financial support to workers during strikes and lockouts, provision of education, recreation and housing facilities, medical facilities during sickness and causalities.

3. Political Functions:

Affiliation of union with a strong political party of country and to take the help of political parties during the strikes and lockouts.

Besides these primarily functions of trade union, the other functions of a trade union are as follows:

i. To safeguard workers by all sorts of exploitation.

ii. To protect workers from unfair labour practices.

iii. To ensure healthy and adequate working conditions at workplace.

iv. To ensure proper grievance handling machinery.

v. To encourage workers participation in management activities.

vi. To guarantee a system of social justice to workers.

vii. To make the workers more conscious about their rights and duties.

vii. To ensure high productivity

ix. To facilitate communication with management.

x. To establish harmonious relations between management and worker

xi. To put pressure on the management for proper implementation of various Labour Acts in a right manner.

xii. To high light organisation as a joint enterprise between workers and management.

xiii. To create favourable opinion of management towards trade unions.

xiv. To publish objectives and functions of trade union.

xv. To prepare and maintain necessary records.

xvi. To improve financial position of trade union by fixing higher subscription.

xvii. To strengthen trade union democracy

xviii. To improve networking of communication between trade union and its members, and between trade union and management.

xix. To avoid casteism, regionalism and linguism from trade union

xx. To train members for leaders position

xxi. To continuously review the union objectives in the context of social change and to change them accordingly.

xxii. To ensure proper cooperation in the formulation and implementation of plans and policies relating to national development.

xxiii. To change the public opinion towards trade unions.

xxiv. To launch campaigns against social evils of corruption casteism, regionalism, price rise and black marketing.

xxv. To enable unorganized sector to organize itself.

xxvi. To mobilize public for effective participation and implementation of government plans and policies.

Functions of Trade Unions – With Essential Elements

Trade union, which owes its origin during the industrial revolution era of the eighteenth century, has come to be known by different names such as workers’ combination, workers’ organisation, labour union, labour association, trade union or simply union during the course of time.

Passing through certain distinct stages, of outright suppression, toleration, limited recognition and formal recognition, trade unions have come to occupy an important place in the industrial, economic, political and social life of people in various countries of the world. Their structure, objectives, activities and methods have, a however, undergone considerable changes through the passage of time.

Today, trade unions are reckoned to have a potential force not only in the arena of industrial relations and management of human resources, but also in the day-to-day economic and political life of the people.

The essential elements characterising a trade union are as follows:

(1) It is an organisation of all categories of employees, whether skilled, unskilled, clerical, technical and so on, and receiving remuneration for their services. In general, employers’ organisations are not considered trade unions, although some trade union laws provide for their registration as trade unions.

(2) A trade union has a greater or smaller degree of continuity and permanence. Spontaneous assembly of workers in the event of an immediate incident or outrage is not considered a trade union.

(3) A trade union is formed with certain objectives in view. These objectives may be short-term such as raising of wages, improvement of working conditions, reduction in hours of work, or improvement of terms and conditions of employment, or else, long-term such as acquisition of political power, reform in the economic system or promotion of workers’ solidarity.

(4) A trade union has a specific structure for its functioning. A trade union may be formed at the plant, locality, region, industry or even national level, and the composition of its membership may be based on craft, occupation, industry or employment, but in all cases, it has some sort of administrative and functional structure in the form of office-bearers, executive, general body or specialised committees.

(5) Trade unions adopt some particular methods for achieving their objectives. These are – collective bargaining, pressurising the government for pro-labour legislation and welfare measures and resorting to industrial action including strike and demonstration where necessary.

1. Militant Functions:

(i) To achieve higher wages and better working conditions,

(ii) To raise the status of workers as a part of industry,

(iii) To protect labors against victimization and injustice.

2. Fraternal Functions:

(i) To take up welfare measures for improving the morale of workers,

(ii) To generate self confidence among workers.

(iii) To encourage sincerity and discipline among workers.

(iv) To provide opportunities for promotion and growth,

(v) To protect women workers against discrimination.

3. Social Functions:

(i) Promoting and maintaining national integration by reducing the number of industrial disputes,

(ii) Incorporating a sense of corporate social responsibility in workers,

(iii) Achieving industrial peace.

4. Ancillary Functions:

(i) Communication

(ii) Welfare Activities

(iii) Education

(iv) Research