Due to a surge in industrial activity in the later part of 19th century, the population of working class increased. Since the employers were mainly interested only in profitability, workers were at a mercy of the employers. Slowly, the concept of a union started taking hold in India. In 1890, mill workers of Bombay associated under the name of Bombay Millhands Association. Although it was not a trade union in a strict sense, it was nevertheless a start in India, giving way to the concept of registration of trade union and officially under Trade Union Act 1926. Firstly procedure of Registration of trade union was provided in the Trade Union Act 1926.
After the first world war the cost of living increased and the workers frequently agitated to demand more pay. In the early 20th century Royal Trade Commission studied the condition of workers and suggested the formations of Trade Unions. As per the recommendations of the Royal Commission, Indian Trade Unions Act was passed in 1926. However, due to strong opposition from employers, it was enforced only in 1927. The original act lacked teeth in the sense that the formation or Registration of a Trade Union itself dependent on the recognition by the employer. Later on several amendments were made to fix the issues. In 1947, the act was amended widely as per the socialist inclination of the polity.
Section 2(h) of the Trade Unions Act 1926 defines Trade Union as a combination, temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employer, workmen and workmen, or employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive condition on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes the federation of two or more trade unions.
Thus, technically, there can be union’ of employers also, though, almost universally, the term ‘trade union’ is associated with union of workmen or employees.
the Objectives of a trade union are:
- Improved wages
- Improved terms & conditions
- Full employment
- Industrial Democracy
- Voice in Government
A society or authors, publishers, and other owners of copyright meant to protect their copyright in music and songs, was held NOT to be a Trade Union by the House of Lords.
In the case of Tamil Nadu NGO Union vs Registrar, Trade Unions, AIR 1962, Madras HC held that Tamil Nadu NGO Union, which was an association of sub magistrates of the judiciary, tahsildars, etc., was not a trade union because these people were engaged in sovereign and regal functions of the State where were its inalienable functions.
In the case of GTRTCS and Officer’s Association, Bangalore and others vs Asst. Labor Commissioner and anothers AIR 2002, Kar. HC held that the definition of workmen for the purpose of Trade Unions is a lot wider than in other acts and that the emphasis is on the purpose of the association rather than the type of workers and so it is a valid Trade Union.
The registration of a trade union is not necessary. However, upon registration, a trade union gets several benefits including some immunities that are not available to an unregistered Trade Union. In the case of Workers of B and C Co vs Labor Commissioner, AIR 1964 Mad it was held that a Trade Union can raise or sponsor a trade dispute and represent on behalf of its members in legal proceedings arising out of a trade dispute.
Section 13 specifies that upon registration, a trade union gets a legal entity status, due to which it:-
- has perpetual succession and a common seal.
- can acquire and hold movable as well as immovable properties.
- can contract through agents.
- can sue and can be sued.
Formation and Registration of Trade Union
Section 3 (Appointment of the Registrar):
As per the provisions of the Indian Trade Union Act of 1926, the following steps are involved in the registration of a trade union:
- The appropriate government shall appoint a person to be the Registrar of trade unions for each state.
- The appropriate government may appoint as many additional and deputy registrars of trade unions as it thinks fit for the purpose of exercising and discharging under the superintendence and direction of the registrar.
- Such powers and functions of the registrar under this Act as it may, by order, specify and define the local limits within which any such additional or deputy registrar shall exercise and discharge the powers and functions so specified.
Mode of registration
Section 4 of Trade Union Act 1926 says that to register a Trade Union,
- an application must be sent to the Registrar of Trade Unions appointed by an appropriate government.
- the application must be made by seven or more persons who are engaged in the trade or industry in connection to which the Trade Union is to be formed.
- all the applicants must subscribe their names to the rules of the Trade Union and comply with the provisions of this act regarding registration.
- there must be at least 10% or 100, whichever is less, members who are engaged or employed in the establishment or industry to which it is connected.
- there must be not be less than seven members who are engaged or employed in the establishment or industry to which it is connected.
If more that half of the persons who applied for the registration cease to be members of the union or expressly disassociate themselves from the application, the application will be deemed to be invalid.
Application of Registration
Section 5 gives the details of the application. It says that the application should be sent to the registrar along with the copy of the rules of the trade union and a statement of the following particulars
- The name, occupation, and addresses of the applicants.
- The name of the trade union and the address of its head office.
- The titles, names, ages, addresses, and occupations of the office bearers of the trade union.
- If the trade union has been in existence for more than 1 year, a general statement of its assets and liabilities.
Section 6 (Provisions to be contained in the rules of a Trade Union) specifies the provisions that should be contained in the rule book of the trade union. A copy of this rule book must be supplied along with the application for registration of the trade union. This rule book details the internal administration of the trade union and also determines and governs the relationship between the trade union and its members. It must contain the rules for the following matters:
- Name of the trade union
- The whole object of the trade union
- The whole purposes for which the general funds can be used.
- The maintenance of the list of members and adequate facilities to inspect it by the members of the trade union.
- The membership of ordinary members who are actually engaged or employed in an industry with which it is connected as well as the membership of the honorary or temporary members.
- The appointment of members of the executive body.
- The membership or subscription fee, which shall not be less that 25 paisa per member per month
- The conditions under which a member can get the benefits or has to pay fines.
- The safe custody of funds and provisions for inspecting or auditing the statements, or other documents of the trade union.
- Dissolution of the trade union.
In the case of M T Chandersenan vs Sukumaran AIR 1974, SC held that if a member fails to pay subscription fee, he cannot be considered a member of the trade union. However, subscriptions cannot be refused under some pretext which results in the denial of membership.
In the case of Bokajan Cement Corporation Employees Union vs Cement Corporation of India, 2004, SC held that membership of the union does not automatically cease upon termination of the employment.
Under section 7 : A trade union shall not be entitled to registration under this Act, unless the executive thereof is constituted in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
Power to Call For Further Particulars and To Require Alterations of Names:
- The registrar may call for further information or the purpose of satisfying himself that any application complies with the provisions of Section 5, or that the trade union is entitled to registration under Section 6, and may refuse to register the trade union until such information is supplied.
- If the name under which a trade union is proposed to be registered is identical with that by which any other existing trade union has been registered or, in the opinion of the registrar, so nearly resembles such name as to be likely to deceive the public or the members of either trade union, the registrar shall require the persons applying for registration to alter the name of the trade union stated in the application, and shall refuse to register the union until such alteration has been made.
Registration of Trade Union :
Under section 8, upon satisfaction of all the requirements, the Registrar of the Trade Unions will register the trade union. It is mandatory for the registrar to register a trade union if the union satisfies all the technical requirements of this act.
In the case of re Indian Steam Navigation Workers Union AIR 1936 SC held that a Registrar only has to see whether all the technical requirements are being fulfilled and not whether it could be described as unlawful.
In the case of ACC Rajanka Limestone Quarries Worker’s Union vs Registrar of Trade Unions, AIR 1958, it was held that if the registrar does not register the trade union within 3 months of application, an appeal can be made to the High Court under article 226.
Certificate of Registration:
Under section 9, the registrar will issue the certificate of registration in the prescribed form, which shall be a conclusive evidence that the trade union is registered under this act.
PROCEDURE FOR AMALGAMATION
Section 24 says that any two or more registered trade unions may become amalgamated together into one trade union with or without dissolution or division of the funds of such trade unions or either or any of them, provided that votes of at least one half of the members of each trade union are recorded and at least 60% of the votes of each trade union are in favor of the proposal.
The notice of such amalgamation, signed by the secretary and seven members of each of the trade unions, should be sent to the registrar of the state where the head office of the amalgamated trade union is to be located. If the registrar is satisfied that all the provisions of this act have been complied with and the trade union formed thereby is entitled to registration under section 6, he will register the new trade union under section 8 and the amalgamation will take effect from the date of registration.
Cancellation of Registration
Under section 10, the Registrar of Trade Unions has the power to cancel the registration of a trade union in the following conditions:
- On the application of the trade union to be verified in the prescribed manner.
- If the registrar is satisfied that registration was obtained by fraud or mistake.
- If the trade union has ceased to exist.
- If the trade union wilfully, upon notice of the registrar, has contravened or allowed any rule to continue in force, which is inconsistent with the provisions of this act.
- If the trade union rescinds any rule providing for any matter, provision for which is required to be made in section 6.
- If the registrar is satisfied that a trade union of workmen has ceased to have the requisite number of members.
In the case of Tata Electric Companies Officer’s Guild vs Registrar of Trade Unions, 1994, Bombay HC held that for a registrar to cancel the registration, willful neglect of the notice is a must. If the trade union sends the account statement upon notice of the registrar, the registrar cannot cancel the registration on the ground that the account statement was not filed earlier.
Under section 27, upon dissolution of a trade union, seven or more members must send a notification to the registrar within 14 days of dissolution and the registrar shall register if after verifying that the dissolution has been done as per the provisions of this act. Further, if the rules of the trade union do not provide for distribution of the funds upon dissolution, the registrar may distribute the funds in such manner as may be prescribed.
Appeal against the decision of Registrar
Section 11 grants a limited right to appeal the decisions or orders passed by the registrar.
An appeal may be made to :
- the high court, if the head office of the trade union is located in a presidency town.
- the labour court or industrial tribunal, if the head office of the trade union is located in its jurisdiction.
- if the head office of the trade union in any other location, to such court, not inferior to the court of an additional or assistant judge of a principal civil court of original jurisdiction, as the appropriate govt. may appoint in this behalf for that area.
An appeal must be made within 60 days of the date on which registrar passed the order against which the appeal is made.
In the case of Registrar of Trade Unions, West Bengal vs Mihir Kumar Guha 1963, Cal, it was settled that a trade union whose head office is in a presidency town has only a single chance of appeal against the decision of the registrar, which is to the high court while a trade union whose head office is in muffasil has two chances of appeals, first in the local court and second in the high court.
All communications and notices to a registered trade union may be addressed to its registered office. Notice of any change in the address of the head office shall be given within fourteen days of such change to the Registrar in writing, and the changed address shall be recorded in the register referred to in Section-8 of the Companies Act.