Author : Deshna Rupesh Desai, Student at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.
The workers in the factory would face various issues and there were instances where the problems would remain unsolved. In order to improve their conditions and maintain a reasonable standard, it was necessary for them to come together and settle for a common solution which gave rise to the trade union. The trade union acts as a bridge between the labours and the management. In order to shape them into a corporate body and to validate itself, registration of trade union was necessary. However, the trade unions were still deprived of few benefits which made it mandatory to bring the provision for the recognition of trade union. Even though, it has not been amended in the central act, many states have enacted laws for the same. Measures are being taken to include the same in the central act.
Trade union typically mean an organization of the workers formed in order to protect their rights and interests. Their history can be tracked down to the latter half of the 19th century which resulted in the beginning of industrial manpower in India. The first association of India founded in 1890 by N.M.lokhande was known as Bombay Mill-Hands Association. The association was the immediate after effect of first Factories Act 1881. Madras Labour Union, by B.P.Wadia in 1918 is considered to be the first registered trade union.
After the first world war, there was a foundation of an international organisation of working class for promoting labour welfare known as the International Labour Organisation. During the 1970-1980 period, two key events took place in India. One of them being the 1974 railway strike, the one which is the largest recorded strike of 20 days in the world where 1.7 million workers participated, Secondly, Great Bombay textile strike of 1982, where almost 2,50,000 workers participated in order to get the bonus and to have an increase in wages.
NEED OF TRADE UNIONS
The condition of the workers in the industry were not favourable and the worker couldn’t alone fight for the same. The worker’s voice were unheard in front of his employer and hence it was necessary to come together and work together for their rights. The key purpose of the union is to look into the problems of the workers with respect to minimum wage, hazardous working conditions, improper implementation of personal policies. Trade union plays a major role in order to maintain and improve the relationship between the workers and the management.
TRADE UNION ACT 1926:-
The bill in relation to the union registration was introduced in front of the legislative assembly in the year 1925 and the same was known as the Trade Union Act 1926. The main objective was to lay down a legislation relating to union registration and also the laws for the same. It went through various amendments however it was all in vain as the provisions were not brought into force. The term Trade union and registered trade union has been defined under section 2(h) and under 2 (e) respectively. Chapter 2 and 3 deals with the provisions for registration and the rights of the trade union respectively.
NEED FOR RECOGNITION OF TRADE UNIONS:-
Collective bargaining is an important right required by the employee. The management allows negotiations and bargaining only to the recognised union. Hence collective bargaining was one of the main purpose for their recognition. Recognition will help the workers in lots of ways such as assisting the workers during the meeting, supporting them in case of harsh actions taken by the employer, bargaining for wages, improvement in working conditions. The 1926 act, has made a remarkable progress and also given the workers a position in the industrial world and hence the recognition will also help them a lot. Compulsory Recognition of the trade union was one of the recommendation by the National Labour Commission, 1969.
REGISTRATION AND RECOGNITION:-
Recognition is not the same as registration. Registration of the trade union makes it a corporate, legal body and gives them the rights. However recognition is a process which helps the rights under registration to come into force. Recognition is when the employer accepts the trade union and agrees to coordinate and negotiate with them. There are various methods of recognition. Some of the states have actually enacted the laws for the same. MRTU is one of them.
METHODS OF RECOGNITION:-
Registration under code of discipline:-
The 15th Indian Labour Congress had accepted the code in order to recognise the trade unions. The conditions are as follows:-
- The Unions should have minimum 1 year standing.
- Minimum 15% membership of the establishment is required to claim recognition; and 25% of the work force for recognition on industrial basis.
- In case of multiple unions in one foundation, the one with highest number of members will be recognised.
- Local Unions having more than 50% membership of their locality can be recognised for representing grievances.
- Validation period of the recognition – 2 years.
- No recognition will be granted to the unions who don’t follow the code of discipline
Secret ballot method:-
In Food corporation stuff union case, the apex court has prescribed the procedure for recognition through secret ballot system. 
Check off method:-
Under the check off methods, the workers give their undertaking that they have agreed to be a part of the union and mention the name of the same. They should also agree that the amount for membership will be deducted from their salary.
Recognition by management:-
The officer of the labour department would ask the employees if they wish to become a part of the union and based on the majority, the trade union will be recognised accordingly.
MRTU AND PULP:-
The main objective is the provision of recognition to the union in order to facilitate collective bargaining, to state their rights and obligations, provision of strikes, lockouts and prevention of certain unfair labour practices.
The term recognised union and union is defined under section 2 (13) and 2 (17) respectively.
Chapter 3 has the provisions for the recognition. It explains the procedure of recognition and its cancellation. Section 10 of the act shows the applicability of the act. Section 11 deals with the procedure of application of recognition. Section 12 deals with approval for the recognition of the trade union. Section 13 deals with cancellation of recognition and suspension of their rights. Section 15 has provisions for re recognition.
RIGHTS OF RECOGNISED TRADE UNION
Under chapter 4 , section 20 gives out the rights of the recognised union.
The following rights are given to the recognised union:-
- The office bearers of a recognised union are authorised to collect amount payable by the members to the union on the premises , where wages are paid to them
- Authorised to put up a notice-board on the premises of the undertaking in which its members are employed.
- Authorised to hold discussions on the premises with the concerned employees, but should not interfere in the due working of the undertaking, to meet the employer for settling the grievances of the employee and to inspect in order to prevent and settle the dispute.
- To appear on behalf of the employees in any domestic or departmental inquiry held by the employer
- Only Recognised union can appoint the candidates to represent workers on works committee constitution of central act.
In the All India Bank Employee’s Association case, it was clarified that scope of article 19 of the constitution cannot be broadened up to collective bargaining. The trade union cannot force the management by saying that it is the fundamental right of the trade union.
In the B.R Singh’s case, it is laid down that the workers going on strike for raising their voices won’t result as unfair labour practices unless it is banned under the Industrial Disputes Act section 22.
In the MRF Workers Union case, the validation of the recognition procedure was laid down.
In Automobile Employees Union case, it was held that recognition by any other method which is not mentioned in MRTU will be invalid for industries under the MRTU and PULP act.
In Balmer Lawrie Workers Union case, it was specified that the recognised trade union represents all the workmen of the industry.
The Maruti Suzuki employees union of the Manesar plant near Gurgaon in Delhi demands recognition. However the administration argued that the union named MUKU already recognised. However the workers were of the view that the said union represents the Gurgaon plant and not the Manesar plant. Thus the workers went on strike which lasted for 13 days because of the suspension of 11 workers. Chairman here mentioned that elections will be held and the one with the majority will represent both the plants as both are same companies and not independent entities. The strike was ended as the management agreed to take the 11 workers back. The workers signed the good conduct bond laid down by the management.
By adding provisions, of the recognition of trade union , it has helped in improving the conditions of the trade union. MRTU and PULP act has also made changes related to the unfair labour practices. The only drawback is that there is no central law for the union’s recognition. Recommendations of the 1947 trade union act amendment has been a mere dead letter. However, the issue has been raised again and by the introduction of the trade union amendment bill 2019, the union minister has suggested for a legal framework on the recognition of trade union. It would prove to be beneficiary for the trade unions if the same is accepted and a central act based on recognition is framed.
Navtan Kumar,‘Rail unions plan 1974-style strike’(Sunday Guardian Live, 28Feb2016) <https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/3533-rail-unions-plan-1974-style-strike> accessed 15October2020
Trade Unions Act 1926, ss. 2 (e), 2 (h)
‘Recognition of Trade Union’(labour law updates,19 March 2011) <https://labourlawkerala.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/recoginition-of-trade-unions/>accessed 15 October 2020
Food Corporation of India Staff Union vs. Food Corporation of India and Others  AIR 1344 (SC)
MRTU and PULP Act 1971, ss 10,11,12,13,15
MRTU and PULP Act 1971, s 20
All India Bank Employee’s Association v N.I.Tribunal  AIR 171 (SC)
B.R Singh v. Union of India  AIR 1 (SC)
MRF United Workers Union v State of Tamil Nadu  (124) FLR 386 (MADHC)
 Automobile Products of India Employees Union v. Association of Engineering workers  AIR 1159 (SC)
Balmer Lawrie Workers Union v. Balmer Lawrie & Co. Ltd  AIR 311 (SC)
‘Bill to provide statutory recognition to trade unions in Lok Sabha’(The Economic Times,8 Jan 2019) <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/bill-to-provide-statutory-recognition-to-trade-unions-in-lok-sabha/articleshow/67435569.cms> accessed 15October2020