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Trade Unions and Labour Market Inequality

06 Feb 2014

By:- Taniya Chakrabarty

There is a common opinion that trade union activities have been limited to only the formal sector which has given rise to the phrase "labour aristocracy", but in reality more than sixty percent of trade union membership is from the informal sector. The trade union movement in India, from the 'beedi' workers movement, hand loom workers’ trade union to the scavengers’ movement, has encompassed important parts of the informal sector. The aggregate trade union membership has never declined in this country, it has always increased; but, over the years, labour has moved off the government’s agenda and the wage question has gone off the political radar. It has become difficult to unionize in the newer industries which have come into existence only in the last ten to fifteen years because of concerted efforts adopted by the management to prevent unionization. As a trade unionist commented, “the obstacle lies in a government that looks the other way and the industry that believes that unless it squeezes labour, it cannot make profits”.

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