Multiplicity of Trade Union - Industrial Relations Management

Management(employers)and trade unions are two main parties in collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is a method by which trade unions negotiate for protected and improved working conditions for and to secure welfare of their employees. Trade Unions raise the collective voice of workers which is heard and considered by the management while taking policy decisions.

In India, the law permits that any seven persons can form a union under the Trade Unions Act, 1926. Such unions, under the Act, are allowed to raise disputes, file suits and even bargain with employers. Therefore, small sections of workers are encouraged to form separate Unions. There is no restriction on the number of unions to be registered in one establishment.

Though strong trade unions help in securing workers’ interests as well as organizational stability and growth, however existence of many trade unions in the same establishment is a major hurdle in collective bargaining and hampers organization’s and workers’ growth.

The multiplicity of trade unions is a major problem among the trade unions. These multiple trade unionism is seen mainly because of the political outsiders wanting to establish their unions for their own view of increasing their political influence although in the urban areas. The existence of different conflicting or rival organizations, with divergent political views, is greatly responsible for inadequate and unhealthy growth of the movement. Within a single organization one comes across a number of groups comprising or insiders and outsiders, new-comers, and old-timers, moderates and radicals,and high and low caste people. This develops small size unions which are not helpful for the workers or employees and creates problems such as:

  • Rivalry between the unions
  • Lack of ability among the leaders and members.
  • Low bargaining power.
  • Lack of funds to help its members.
  • Lack of unity among workers.

Trade Union Rivalry

India has the largest number of Trade Unions in the world but the rivalry between the unions or the inter-union rivalry is a niggling problem. Inter-union and intra-union rivalry undermines the strength and solidarity of the workers in many ways. An Inter-union rivalry is mainly because of the multiplicity of unions which ultimately cuts at the very root of unionism, weakens the power of collective bargaining, and reduces the effectiveness of workers in securing their legitimate rights. Therefore, there should be One union in one Industry´.Practically in every important industry, there exists parallel and competing unions, e.g. on the Indian Railways, there are two parallel Federations

  1. the Indian Railway Men’s Federation and
  2. Indian National Federation of Railway-men.

The same case could be seen in the Textile Industry in Bombay, where there are two unions the Girni Kamgar Union (controlled by the CPI) and the Rashtria Mazdoor Sangh (controlled by the INTUC).As the trade unions are functioning from the plant level, there is room for disagreement within the democratic structure of trade union. Even the absence of any legal requirements in the greater part of the country to recognize any union as the sole bargaining agent is a major factor which generates the wide-spread and a bitter trade union rivalry. This problem may lead to Industrial Unrest, strikes, gheraos etc in the organization.


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