Trade Union Movement in India

2. Early Trade Union Period (1918-1924)

The year 1918 was an important one for the Indian Trade Unions Movement. It marked the start of a new era, an era of growth and one in which the leadership of the trade unions was to pass from the hands of social workers into the hands of the politicians, doctors and advocates. The movement could take permanent roots in the Indian soil only after the end of World War 1. The following contributed to the trade union movement:

i. The industrial unrest that grew up as a result of economic difficulties created by war.

ii. The Swaraj movement intensified the movement, widened the gulf between employers and employees and brought mass awakening among the workers demanding racial equality with their British employers.

iii. The success of the Russian Revolution of 1917 created a revolutionary wave of ideas and a new self-respect and enlightenment, and added momentum to the feeling of class-consciousness among labourers.

iv. The establishment of the I.L.O. in 1919 gave dignity to the working class and also an opportunity to send a delegation to the annual conference of this body. It was from this body that labour movement in various countries derived their inspiration, help and guidance.

v. The non-cooperative movement of Gandhiji during 1920-21 and his support to the demands of industrial labour also greatly influenced the working class movement.

At about this time many unions were formed in different industries at different places. The Madras Textile Union was the first union in the modern sense, which was formed in 1918 by B.P. Wadia. In 1920, a Spinner’s Union, as well as Weaver’s Union, was formed at Ahmedabad at the initiatives of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Textile Labour Association was formed in 1920 at the initiative of Gandhiji. It adopted the ideology of Truth and Non-violence as its means to get the demands fulfilled. At the national level, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was established under the chairmanship of Lala Lajpat Rai in 1920.

3. Left-Wing Unionism Period (1924-1935)

The third phase of the Indian labour movement which may be called the period of left wing trade unionism started in 1924 and lasted upto the year 1935. During this period, there was domination of communism in India. In 1924, a violent and long drawn out strike y unions led to the arrest, prosecution, conviction and imprisonment of many communist leaders. In 1926, the Indian Labour Union Act was passed. The AITUC was bifurcated and a new organization i.e Indian Trade Federation came into existence. In 1931, AITUC was again dissented in Calcutta Session and under the leadership of B.T. Randive, a separate organization, i.e. All India Red Trade Union Congress was established . During 1931, at Delhi, National Federation of Labour was established and including the Indian Trade Union Federation, was given a new name i.e. National Trade Union Federation (NTUF). In 1935, Red Trade union Congress again united with All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).

Trade Union Movement in India

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