The primary function of trade unions include to negotiate improved wages and allowances and working conditions of workers through collective bargaining process or pressure tactics like strikes, to regulate relationship between employees and the employer and to represent workers in matters of protecting their interest.

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
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, indoor 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