Has The Time Come For Anti-Trade Union Movement In India? – OpEd


The central trade unions in India, which are said to represent the central government employees and public sector organisations including banks, have threatened to go on strike on Sept 2, 2016, raising demands on various issues.

In the wake of the strike call, the panicky Government of India has tried to appease the central trade unions by raising the minimum wage for non agricultural unskilled workers. However, the trade unions have said that they would go ahead with the strike demanding several other steps such as non privatization of banks etc.

Strike now a recurring activity

Only a few weeks back, the bank employees went on a day’s strike and “successfully” paralyzed the functioning of the banks for a day all over India. The trade union leadership was jubilant after the strike, calling it as “massive success”.

It appears that it has become a habit for the employees working in the government and public sector organisations to resort to strikes and go slow tactics for one reason or the other at regular intervals.

They seem to be absolutely unconcerned about the inconvenience caused to the public and the national loss that invariably occur due to such strikes.

Government employees a privileged class now

Only a few weeks back, the 7th pay commission was announced for central government employees extending pay revisions and variety of benefits that would cost the exchequer of government of India several thousand millions of rupees year after year. Today, the government employees are one of the most privileged class of the country in view of the salaries and perks they get, the retirement benefits that they receive and high level of security of service that they enjoy.

Nepotism in government machinery – order of the day

It is widely known that the government officials at various levels indulge in corruption and nepotism and news about corrupt dealings of the corrupt officials at various levels are reported everyday in newspapers .

There is widespread view that government departments and nepotism are closely linked together.

Mh2>What about poor citizens?

Today, in India there are around 270 million people who live below poverty line and not knowing where their next meal would come from. They belong to unorganized class and suffer due to poor living conditions , want of quality education for children, poor medical facilities etc.

The plight of such people do not seem to be a matter of concern for the trade unions, who go on strike at their whims and fancies.

When Karl Marx launched trade union movement , he had the oppressed class in view and not the privileged class to which the government employees now belong , who exploit the trade union rights to increase their privileges and benefits by collective bargaining strength.

Because of such approach of trade unions, today a class conflict is now developing in India between the organized and unorganized class.

Trade unions – political set ups

Today, the trade unions in India are political in style and character and there are as many trade unions as the number of political parties.

The leadership of the trade union movement are under the control of politicians of various shade.

These politicians who have got a strangle hold over the leadership of the trade unions use their trade union strength to serve their political interests.

Panicky government

What is very sad and depressing is that the governments in India which are again controlled by politicians, go out of the way to buy peace with the trade unions by yielding to the pressures and demands. In the process, the governments do not seem to care that they have a duty towards the 270 million Indians who are poor and deprived and who need share of the national income.

To the extent , the governments throw away it’s money to the demanding employees , to the same extent the money available for implementing development projects and welfare measures for the poor people get depleted. In many states, nearly 70% of government income is spent towards salaries and benefits for the government employees and the retired ones.

Why not conduct secret ballot before strike decision?

There may be many employees in the government who know that the tactics of the trade unions are bad and wrong and against the interest of national progress. But, they dare not protest and silently fall into the groove, fearing isolation.

If the trade union leadership have the courage to conduct a poll amongst all the members before launching the strike, perhaps, they would know that considerable section do not approve their tendency to go on strike now and then.

However, it is unlikely that trade union leadership in India under the stranglehold of politicians will take the risk of conducting secret ballot.

Is there need for anti trade union movement?

With aggressive and exploitative trade unions on the one hand and panicky government lacking courage to take a stand against the exploitative methods of trade unions, the interest of the poor and down trodden remain neglected and unrepresented.

Many dispassionate thinkers in India wonder as to whether time has come to launch an anti trade union movement in India.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

2 thoughts on “Has The Time Come For Anti-Trade Union Movement In India? – OpEd

  • September 4, 2016 at 4:17 am

    You cannot make a “blanket Statement ” re Trade Unions.
    SEWA of Smt ela Bhatt has organized the heavily excpolited informal (unorganized ) sector women into a POWERFUL Trade union. )Once when some Honble MPs met Smt Ela, and told her: Your Social Work has set an example Smt Ela replied ” We are a trade union , not an NGO” etc.

    I am disgusted with the way organized trade unions (Transport, banking, Telephones, Medical) etc hold people to ransom by irrewponsible demands and threats.

    This subject needs a debate. Organize a meeting, invite citizens and also Trasde Unionists . I will come


  • September 4, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Freedom of expression entitles us to voice our views on citizens’ concerns as in this case. But it will be a cry in the wilderness.
    Without being pessimistic which I am not,let me suggest that any organisation calling for strike should either compensate as was decided by S.court in Kerala strike/Bandh case or trade unions should work extra hours as they do in Japan to draw/ force attention of authorities including Government


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