History of Trade Union in India.

History of Trade Union in India can be traced back from 1875 when India was struggling for its Independence. The entire period of the growth of trade unionism up till now is conveniently
History of Trade Union in India can be traced back from 1875 when India was struggling for its Independence. The entire period of the growth of trade unionism up till now is conveniently
History of Trade Union India
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History of Trade Union in India can be traced back from 1875 when India was struggling for its Independence. The entire period of the growth of trade unionism up till now is conveniently divided into three periods :

Three Period of Unionism
  • First period 1875-1918
  • Second period 1918-1947
  • Third period 1947 till date


The first period of trade unions in India started from 1875 and lasted up to first world war. During the period the trade union movement was essentially humanitarian. Some friendly societies were formed to look in to the welfare of workers. These unions were sporadic in nature. The first Indian trade union, Bombay Mill Hands Association was formed in 1890, with an immediate aim of agitation for a revision of first Indian Factories Act 1881.


This period actually marked the beginning and growth of organized and continuous trade unions.

  • Madras became the nucleolus of organized the labour activity.
  • B.P.Wadia founded the Madras Labour Union 1919.
  • There was significant spread of trade unionism in 1920.
  • Trade unions like Ahemdabad textile workers union, N.W Railway employees. union, indian colliery employees union the jamshedpur labour association, the bombay port trust employees union, and the E. B. Railway Indian employees association were formed
  • By 1924 there were 1671 trade union in India.
  • The all India trade union congress was formed in 1920.
  • The period between 1924 and 1935 is characterized as the period of left -wing trade unionism.


In march 1921 SRI N.M. JOSHI then Gen. sec. of AITUC successfully moved resolution in the central legislative assembly.

  • On a resolution being passed by central legislative assembly in march 1924 the Indian trade union was introduced in the central legislative assembly
  •  The act received its assent on 25th march 1926.
  • It came into force on 1st June 1927.As “the Indian trade unions act 1926 (16 of 1926). By sec.3 of the Indian Trade Unions (Amendment)Act 1964 the word “Indian” has been omitted and now it stands as The Trade Unions Act, 1926.
  • To make regulation for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of this act the then government passed “The Central Trade Union Regulations, 1938”


In the period 1918-47 the ideology inspiring trade union was nationalistic, But after independence, trade union developed into an effective instrument for protecting and safeguarding the interest of the labourers.


  • To promote and protect the interest of its members.
  • The Labour Commission in his report in 1966 opined that unions should pay attention to the basic needs of its members which are:-
  • To secure for workers faire wages
  • To safeguard security of. Tenure
  • To enlarge opportunities for promotion and training
  • To improve working and living conditions
  • To provide for educational cultural recreational facilities
  • To cooperate in and facilitate technological advanced by broadening the understanding of workers on its underlying issues
  • To promote individual and collective welfare
  • To cooperate in improving production and productivity

Labour Law and Constitutional Mandate :

Part III of the Constitution of India is the benchmark for labor laws in India. Also, Part III (Article 12 to 35) of the Constitution covers the fundamental rights of its citizens which includes Equality before the law, Religion, Sex, caste, place of birth, the abolition of untouchability, freedom of speech and expression and prohibition of employment of children in factories.

Article 14

Equality before the law which is interpreted in labor laws as “Equal pay for Equal work”. It does not mean that article 14 is absolute. There are a few exceptions in it regarding labor laws such as physical ability, unskilled and skilled labors shall receive payment according to their merit.

In the case of Randhir Singh vs Union of India, the Supreme Court said that “Even though the principle of ‘Equal pay for Equal work’ is not defined in the Constitution of India, it is a goal which is to be achieved through Article 14,16 and 39 (c) of the Constitution of India.Article 19 (1) (C) 

Constitution guarantees citizens to form a union or association. The Trade Union Act, 1926 works through this Article of the Constitution. It allows workers to form trade unions.

Trade Unions provide the power to raise voice against atrocities done to the workers. Unionization brings power to the laborers. Trade Unions discuss various labor-related problems with the employers, they conduct strikes, etc.

Article 23 

Constitution prohibits forced labor. When the Britishers ruled over India, forced labor was prevalent all over India. They were made to work against their will and weren’t paid according to their work. The Government at that time were infamous for forced labor and the landlords were also involved in forced labor.

In current times, forced or bonded labor is an offense which is punishable under the law. The Bonded Labor (Abolition) Act, 1976 prohibits all kinds of bonded labor and is declared illegal.

Article 24 

Constitution prohibits all forms of child labor. Nobody can employ a child under the age of 14 to work. Child labor was a massive problem of our country in the earlier times and it still is happening but at a lower scale. The penalization of article 24 is severe.

Relevancy of Part IV (Article 36 – 51) on Labor Laws

Part IV of the Constitution of India,  which is also known as the “Directive Principles of State Policy” aims to work toward the welfare of its citizens. DPSP cannot be enforced in the court of law, but it provides a guideline to the legislature for making labor laws in India.

Article 39 (a) 

“The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing; That the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood. It means that every citizen of the country has the right to earn a livelihood without getting discriminated on the basis of their sex.

Article 39 (d) 

Constitution says that “The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing; that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women. Wages will not be determined on the basis of sex rather it will be according to the amount of work done by the worker.

Article 41 

Constitution provides “ Right to Work” which means that every citizen of the country has the right to work and the state with the best of its abilities will secure the right to work and education.

Article 42 

Provides for the upliftment of the working conditions for workers. It talks about creating a suitable and Humane workplace. This article also talks about maternity relief, i.e leave provided to women when they are pregnant.

Article 43 

Talks about the “living wage” for its citizens. Living wage not only includes the “bare necessities of life” but also the social and cultural upliftment of the person. It also includes education and insurances for a person.

The State shall constantly try to create opportunities in the fields of Agriculture and Industries with special reference to cottage industries.


Constitution of India is the base for all laws in our country. The labor laws are also made according to the constitution and any violation of constitutional laws result in the abolition of that particular law. The Directive Principles of the State policy play a major role in the making of new labor laws in India.


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