The shortcomings or the weakness of the trade union movement in India are as follows:
1. Lack of Balanced Growth
Trade unions are often associated with big industrial houses. A vast majority of the working population is without any union backing. The entire agricultural sector is highly unorganized in India. The agricultural workers are subject to all kinds of exploitation. The same is true with respect to those working in small scale and cottage industries. Lack of balanced growth of trade unions in all sectors is one of the major weakness of the trade union movement in India.
2. Low Membership
Trade unions , with the exception of few have low membership. This is because many employees are not willing to join unions although they are ready to enjoy the benefits arising out of the union actions. The reasons for the hesitation of employees to join unions include, among others, the need to take pat in strikes and such other programmes, fear of pay cut and fear of punishment.
3. Poor financial Position
Low membership is one of the reasons for the poor financial position of the unions. Moreover, the subscription payable by every member is kept low. Some members may not even make a prompt payment of the small amount of subscription. These are also not very many sources from which unions can get funds. They may probably depend on contributions from philanthropists. The poor financial position can only weaken the trade union movement.
4. Political Control
Most popular trade unions in India are affiliated to certain political parties. These political parties are only keen on making every grievance of the working class a political issue to attain political gains. As a result the problem only gets wide publicity and remains unsolved.
5. Multiplicity of Unions
Often there exists more than one union within the same industry each backed by a political party. These various unions have conflicting ideology. If one union comes out with a strike proposal another union may work against it. As a result, none of the unions is actually able to solve the problems of the workers.
6. Inter-Union Rivalry
The existence of many unions within a particular industry paves way for what is called inter-union rivalry. These unions do not work together for the cause of the workers. Each union may adopt a different approach to the problem. The inter-union rivalry may become a more serious problem of the workers. As a result, the employees are unable to derive the benefits of collective bargaining.
7. Lack of able Leaders
Another barrier to the growth of trade unions is the lack of able leaders. Some union leaders give a strike call even for petty problems that can easily be resolved through talks. On the other hand, there are leaders who have secret pact with the management. They get bribes from the government and work against the interests of the employees. Some leaders don’t convene a meeting of the general body at all even when a crisis develops. They take unilateral decisions that are thrust on the employees.
8. Lack of Recognition
Most management is not prepared to recognize trade unions. This happens because of any of the following reason.
- The existence of low membership that reduces the bargaining power of the union.
- The existence of more unions within the same industry.
- Inter-union rivalry.
- The indifferent attitude of the employees themselves towards trade unions.
9. Opposition from Employers
Apart from the fact that most employers are not prepared to recognize trade unions, they also do not let their employees from a union. This the employers are able to achieve by adopting certain punitive measures like intimidating employees victimizing union leaders, initiating disciplinary action against employees indulging in union activities and so on. Some employers also start rival unions with the support of certain employees. Sometimes, they may go to the extent of bribing union leaders to avert a strike or such similar show of protest by employees. The employers fail to understand that the union enables the employees to express their grievances in a democratic manner and can also be used as a means of promoting better labor management relationships.
10. Indifferent Attitude of the Members
Union leaders alone cannot be blamed for the weakness of the trade union movement. The indifferent attitude of the members of certain unions is also a barrier. Some members do not even make a prompt payment of the subscription amount. The treasurer of the union has to go behind them, remind and persuade them to pay the subscription that is often a very small amount. There are on the other hand, members who do not attend the general body meetings nor do they bother to know what is discussed in such meetings. There are still others who do not take part at all in any of the programmes of the union organized to press the demands of the employees like slogan shouting procession, demonstration, hunger strike etc. Members generally expect the office-bearers to do all that is necessary to achieve the demands.
Credit: Industrial Relations Management Notes-MGU