The trade unionism in India developed quite slowly as compared to the western nations. Indian trade union movement can be divided into three phases.
The first phase (1850 to1900)
During this phase the inception of trade unions took place. During this period, the working and living conditions of the labor were poor and their working hours were long. Capitalists were only interested in their productivity and profitability. In addition, the wages were also low and general economic conditions were poor in industries. In order to regulate the working hours and other service conditions of the Indian textile laborers, the Indian Factories Act was enacted in 1881. As a result, employment of child labor was prohibited.
The growth of trade union movement was slow in this phase and later on the Indian Factory Act of 1881 was amended in 1891. Many strikes took place in the two decades following 1880 in all industrial cities. These strikes taught workers to understand the power of united action even though there was no union in real terms. Small associations like Bombay Mill-Hands Association came up by this time.
The second phase (1900 to 1946)
This phase was characterized by the development of organized trade unions and political movements of the working class. Between 1918 and 1923, many unions came into existence in the country. At Ahmedabad, under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi, occupational unions like spinners’ unions and weavers’ unions were formed. A strike was launched by these unions under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi who turned it into a satyagrah. These unions federated into industrial union known as Textile Labor Association in 1920.In 1920, the First National Trade union organization (The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)) was established. Many of the leaders of this organization were leaders of the national Movement. In 1926, Trade union law came up with the efforts of Mr. N N Joshi that became operative from 1927. During 1928, All India Trade Union Federation (AITUF) was formed.
The third phase began with the emergence of independent India (in 1947). The partition of country affected the trade union movement particularly Bengal and Punjab. By 1949, four central trade union organizations were functioning in the country:
- The All India Trade Union Congress,
- The Indian National Trade Union Congress,
- The Hindu Mazdoor Sangh, and
- The United Trade Union Congress
The working class movement was also politicized along the lines of political parties. For instance Indian national trade Union Congress (INTUC) is the trade union arm of the Congress Party. The AITUC is the trade union arm of the Communist Party of India. Besides workers, white-collar employees, supervisors and managers are also organized by the trade unions, as for example in the Banking, Insurance and Petroleum industries.
Trade unions in India
The Indian workforce consists of 430 million workers, growing 2% annually. The Indian labor markets consist of three sectors:
- The rural workers, who constitute about 60 per cent of the workforce.
- Organized sector, which employs 8 per cent of workforce, and
- The urban informal sector (which includes the growing software industry and other services, not included in the formal sector) which constitutes the rest 32 per cent of the workforce.
At present there are twelve Central Trade Union Organizations in India:
- All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)
- Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS)
- Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)
- Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat (HMKP)
- Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS)
- Indian Federation of Free Trade Unions (IFFTU)
- Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)
- National Front of Indian Trade Unions (NFITU)
- National Labor Organization (NLO)
- Trade Unions Co-ordination Centre (TUCC)
- United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) and
- United Trade Union Congress – Lenin Sarani (UTUC – LS)