The Trade Union

Categories: Trade


The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates with employers. This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies. The agreements negotiated by the union leaders are binding on the rank and file members and the employer and in some cases on other non-member workers. These organizations may comprise individual.

Trade Union: Meaning

Trade Union is an organization of workers who have hooped together to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of its trade, achieving higher pay, increasing the number of employees an employer hires, and better working conditions.

An organized association of workers in a trade, group of trades, or profession, formed to protect and further their rights and interests. A group of employees in a particular sector, whose aim is to negotiate with employees overpay, job security, working hours, etc. using the collective power of the members.

The most common purpose of these associations or unions is ‘maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment.’ According to Section 2 (xv) of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 ‘trade union’ means trade union of workers or employees formed and registered under this Act and shall include a ‘federation of trade unions.’ Section 176, the Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006 / Section 3, Industrial Relations Order, 1969 enunciates as follows:

“Workers/employers, without distinction whatsoever, shall have the right to form trade union for the purpose of regulating the relations between workers and employers or workers and workers or employers and employers and, subject to the constitution of the union concerned, to join trade union of their own choosing.

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Reasons behind the formation of Trade Union

In earlier times when industry was on a small scale and the few apprentice and craftsmen whom the master craftsmen employed usually lived with him, conditions of employment and any grievances were easily discussed individually or in small groups and quickly settled. Modern industry is very difficult. It is organized on a large a scale, and the maintenance of the close direct relation between employee and employer for the settling of differences is difficult. The status and security which workers had in earlier communities have gone and in their place they need the protection of trade unions. Considerably, to answer the question why trade unions are organized; we have to say that, it is created to bargain and ensure the status, rights, wages and demands of workers of the modern world of industry. Thus modern industrial policies are complex due to the expansion on business; it is very much needed to have a group of people or volunteers who actively work for the labor negotiations. So it is clear that trade unions are growing rapidly in an economy because of the expansion of business and economical growth.

Purposes of Trade Union

Today’s world is globalized. So businesses are also globalized. For this globalization businesses are expanding rapidly for that reason the work force in the industries is increasing hugely. To maintain the whole work force alone by the management is a very tough job. Trade unions are the only way to manage, compliant, and control the labor force. Lots of objectives are thereto organizing trade unions.

From the workers point of view important objectives of trade union today are as follows:

To defend or improve the wages and working conditions of workers and to bring about a change in the economic order; 2. To strengthen their (labor) bargaining power collectively to establish and achieve all their rights; 3. To dully protect all other interest of the workers.

And from the management’s point of view the objectives as written:

  1. To reduce the number of negotiation;
  2. To specify work rules, disagreements and grievances to give the better solution to workers claim;
  3. To establish the efficient communication between the employers and management to enforce the predictable standards;
  4. To enhance the overall organizational effectiveness workers can also be sometimes inspired to form and organize trade union.

Common Activities of Trade Unions

Provision of benefits to members: professional training, legal advice and representations for members are still an important benefit of trade union membership. Industrial action: Trade unions may enforce strikes or resistance to lockouts in furtherance of particular goals. Political activity: Trade unions may promote legislation favourable to the interests of their members or workers as a whole. To this end they may pursue campaigns, undertake lobbying, or financially support individual candidates or parties. Conditions of employment and any grievances – are settled through trade unions. Bargaining rights: Trade unions bargain and ensure the status, rights, wages and demands of workers of the modern world of industry. Contribution in economical growth: Trade unions are growing rapidly in an economy because of the expansion of business and economical growth.

Why workers join Trade Union?

Trade unions are like to play a vital role for its members in case of job losses, or unfair labor practice or inappropriate working conditions that help workers to think for joining a trade union. Few reasons that motivate people to join a trade union are as follows:

Greater bargaining power (on economic and non-economic issues); steady employment (job security);

  • rationalization of personnel policy (consistent treatment);
  • protection from economic hazard;
  • recognition and participation in organizational policy;
  • compulsion (peer/social/political pressure); and
  • General mistrust of management.

Why workers do not join Trade Union?
Trade union is a continuous association of wage earners. It is formed for the purpose of maintaining and improving the conditions of the working lives. But there may be some reasons that resist workers to join trade unions. The discouraging reasons are: Lack of compelling reasons;

  • mistrust of unions;
  • corruption in unions;
  • continuous political influence and pressure, and
  • Over all lack of unity of the workers.

Regulating Laws of Trade Union in Bangladesh

Chapter XIII (sections 175- 208) of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 deals with the formation of trade union and their industrial relations in details. It promulgated to amend and consolidate the law relating to formation of Trade Unions, regulation of the relations between Employer and Workmen and the avoidance and settlement of any difference or dispute arising between them or matters connected therewith and ancillary thereto.

Trade unions and development

The Labour movement has a major role to play in sustainable development and participatory democracy. Trade unions as a large organized group in civil society can bring a unique contribution to the development community. They are directly involved with economic systems of production and distribution; they can influence the course and content of employment and social and economic policies; they are representative and accountable; they have considerable experience in organizing the more vulnerable sections of society; and they have the experience and standing required to access national legal systems and public facilities. They can contribute through their long-standing relationships with such development institutions as: consumer co-operatives, housing societies, health funds and social security organizations.

Women, trade unions and development

Many years had passed before feminist scholars and activists succeeded in convincing the ‘development community’ how seriously it had failed women by not taking fully into account the multiple roles which they play in development. Currently, the central role for women to define and foster development is high on the development agenda.

It has, particularly through the Human Development Reports by UNDP, has gained legitimacy in the development debate. The Gender-Related Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment Index (GEM) have become well-known concepts in development debates. Empowerment certainly includes the world of work, working conditions and earnings levels in which women generally are among the most vulnerable categories. Women’s contributions to agriculture, industry, services, and household work have been made “visible” to the extent that staggering additions had to be made to the national accounts as made in traditional ways (UNDP, 1995). Also, women’s multiple roles in productive and reproductive work as well as in the community point to workloads extending far beyond the traditional idea of work and labour statistics.

Certainly the trade union movement is fully aware of shortcomings when addressing the needs of women as well as enrolling them in the trade union movement. Successes of women’s organization such as BRAC (Bangladesh) and SEWA (India), in addition to the numerous examples of women’s organizations in the farming sector, informal production, and export promotion zones, are well documented. It appears as if a complete transformation of trade union culture and organization is needed in many countries before trade unions can fulfill their role as a development partner by improving the status of women.

Knowledge of achievements and sustainability in strengthening the role of women in the trade union movement and also as development partners is still widely dispersed.

Trade Union and Industrial Relation in Bangladesh

Trade unionism is the core of industrial relations. Primarily it is also referred to as phenomenon of the capitalist society, where in trade unions seek to remove the power imbalance between the buyer (i.e., employer) and individual seller (i.e. worker) of the labour power. In fact, trade unions are born of the necessity of working class people to protect their rights and privileges as well as to defend themselves against enrichments, injustices, and exploitation by their employers. Thus, trade unions provide a platform for workers’ collection action and constitute an integral part of the relationship between employers and the employed.

Democracy in the larger society is a prime and essential condition for the development of industrial relations. In Bangladesh, the extent of democracy is very poor. It is surprising to note that after independence, the frequent changes in government and emergence of military rule during 1975-1979 and 1982-1990 hampered the democratic environment for industrial relations in general and trade unionism in particular.

The level of industrialization in Bangladesh is very poor. The level of employment is very poor too. Here the supply of labour is always much higher than that of the demand for labour. So the labour cost is low. Out of a total civilian labour force of 70 million about 2 millions are unemployed. Here the industrial workers are not at all class conscious. Due to very poor literacy level, workers of Bangladesh are completely in the dark about their rights and obligations. The labour force participation rate in trade unionism is only 12%. Due to improper physical fitness and lack of sufficient skill the productivity of our workers is very low. As a result, they cannot contribute towards the higher level of profitability to the employers, thereby causing their level of wages to remain low. Till now the Government of Bangladesh could not ensure a satisfactory level of minimum wage for the workers.

Multiplicity of trade unions is one of the great weaknesses of labour politics in Bangladesh. As a result of weak strength, trade unions in Bangladesh is facing a number of problems like increasing political influence, inter and intra-union rivalries, unhealthy competition in Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) election, employers, tendency to avoid CBA process, etc. The opportunistic nature of trade union leadership has been responsible for poor labour movements. Most of the time, the trade union leaders act as the agents of employers and of the political governments.

Another major hindrance to good industrial relations is the politicization of labour unions by outside political leaders. This leads to multiple unions on the one hand and inter-union rivalry on the other. Inter-union rivalry depresses both a union’s membership and its finance. The final result is that a union finds itself unable to carry out constructive activities or to play an effective role in collective bargaining. Its status is reduced to a mere strike-committee.

Central Issues of Trade Unions and Industrial Relations

State Intervention

The maintenance of a climate of good Industrial Relations in society depends largely on the role-played lay the State as an ‘actor’ in the industrial relations system. Because it is the duty of the State to formulate updated labour laws and policies to administer them and also to uphold justice so that neither the worker nor the employers should suffer. Thus in any society the State acts both a planner and an administrator in the industrial relations systems. Sate appears on the list of priorities of development planners, but in demographic societies with a vocal and well organized labour force such as omission may have costly and disastrous consequences. The State has had a major role to play, as a leading actor in industrial relation.

It has played a dual role one as the initiator of policy and the other as on employer, or owner, by setting an extremely large public sector. On the Industrial Relation front, the concern, for the weaker partner in industrial progress, i.e., the employees promoted the government to enact a variety of labour laws, to set the haze of minimum wage standards and safety and protect the employees. These laws not only covered rights and privileges but also guaranteed certain levels of income and condition of working environment. The states also, as has been noted, setup machinery such as the Labour commissioners office to resolve industrial and set up labour courts and industrial tribunals as a district labour judiciary at the lower level of the judicial ladder.

Multiplicity of Unions

In multi–union situation at the plant level, the problem of inter- union rivalry frequently poses a managerial problem. Disagreement among unions to technological change, rationalization, automation or terms and conditions of employment causes work stoppage. Sometimes one union agrees while the other doesn’t, for a variety of reasons. These shifts are also due to the rivalry among leaders or to differences in strategy to be adopted or to differences in ideology. A clash of personalities and egos also plays its part. Multiple unionisms are also to multiple enrolments in unions and non-subscribing members, causing delay or failure to get recognition. This restrains a union’s bargaining power during a period of prolonged strike while the unions are squabbling among themselves for dominance, the workers are deprived of their wages and the plant suffers a loss of production.

The primary role of a union is to protect the workers and to channelize their efforts into more rational directions so that the viability of the plant is also enhanced. The effect of having multiple trade unions both at the macro- and micro levels serves only to weaken the workers’ power base while at the same time negatively affecting the viability of the plant. However, it must be noted that in spite of the foregoing there are many organization where multiple unions exist and the management does effectively negotiate, and conclude agreements. Multi-unionism is more problem where general unions exist, for whom all categories can be organized in one general union.

Political affiliation

Political links of trade union have been almost universal although the nature and extent of the relationship between trade unions and political parties differ from country to country. While in may others, trade unions are tied up with to many political parties through multiple federation of the Trade union. In this case, all the trade unions with in the country assemble together under one umbrella and for that matter the country’s working class remains united. It is very difficult to distinguish between trade unions and political parties and also between trade union leaders and politicians. In most case, a trade union leader and a politician was one and the same person. Many of the prominent politicians were veteran trade union leaders and vice –versa. As Post-colonial society in the third world, Bangladesh has made little departure from this experience. The workers and most of their prominent leaders were closely involved in the nationalist, movement against both British and Pakistan domination and finally the liberation was draw trade Unions and major politics parties into such a deep intimacy that their existence become in separate.

Leadership of Trade Unions

Leadership role in a trade union has a variety of demand placed on it. Not only does it require a certain amount of technical knowledge of the nature of business of the particular organization, but also a sympathetic understanding of the workers, their attitudes and their problems. A certain amount of commitment and empathy for a cause, even in uncertain conditions, is necessary. Till now the attraction for persons entering this occupation has been the possibility of a political career in the future. However, there have been some plants unions, which have been run, vary professionally and have at the same time been concerned with the viability of the firm or the enterprise as well as the good of the workers.

A trade union is not only operated but is also known by the people who provide leadership through thick and thin. Sometimes the strength of a trade union is synonymous with the strength of its leadership. Trade union leadership is thus the core of the country’s trade union structure, especially in a society where large-scale unemployment on the one hand.

The question of the right type of leadership is relevant here. A leader who remains loyal to his organization and also to the rank and file members can be designated the right type. Because his primary duty is to serve his organization and its members against any encroachment of right from either management or government. This is no doubt a difficult task for him in a backward society like Bangladesh where they are left with only two alternatives: 1. To remain loyal to workers and to suffer innumerable oppression, even to the point of imprisonment and dismissal, and 2. To playing into hands of management and government and thereby becoming in rich overnight.

Industrial disputes

An industrial dispute, as defined by Section 2 (Lxii) of the Bangladesh Labour Act,2006 means any dispute or difference between employees and employers between employers and workmen or between workmen and workmen, which is connected with the employment or non- employment or the terms of employment or with the conditions of labour or of any person. Industrial dispute doesn’t mean a dispute between on individual workman and the management, but if other workmen or majority of workers of the establishment, or takes up an individual dispute by their union, then it becomes an industrial dispute.

Conflict, as one of the features of industrial relations, is general concept. When it acquires a concrete and specific manifestation, it becomes an industrial dispute, that is industrial conflict is general, where as industrial dispute is specific. Industrial disputes may be said to be disagreement or controversy between management and labour with respect to wages, working conditions, other employment matters or union recognition. Such a dispute may include controversies between rival unions regarding jurisdiction also. There can be as many industrial disputes as there are points of contract between management and labour or one industrial dispute may cover many issues of conflict. When issues of conflict are submitted to the management for negotiation, they take the form of industrial disputes. Therefore, the specific causes of industrial conflict many be treated as causes of industrial disputes also.

They inability of the government and courts to settle disputes peacefully to the reasonable satisfaction of the parties concerned generates resentment and frustration which might cause irrespirable damage to the credibility of national or trade union leadership. The economy’s growth prospects are imperiled as social tensions mount and the investment climate deteriorates. Role of the State in industrial relations as well as dispute settlement increases substantially, if the state is the single largest employer of labour.

Industrial disputes scenario in Bangladesh

Industrial disputes in Bangladesh are quite high. As relatively low percentage are resolved through employer- employee bargaining. There is a long chain of settlement of industrial disputes in Bangladesh. The process in short is charter of demand- placed by trade union or CBA (Collective Bargaining Agent);

Settlement or failing at this stage follows requisite for conciliation settlement or certificate; Settlement or appeal to labour court appellate tribunal
Settlement not writ petition to high court.

Disputes are mostly settled in any stage of midlevel in chain. In Bangladesh, disputes in the public sector are largely resolved either at the corporation or at the national level, where as the disputes in the private sector are normally resolved through collective bargaining. If such settlement is not possible through collective bargaining the concerned parties may resort to the use of next course of action like conciliation, adjudication and the like. In Bangladesh, two methods and the procedure under each are now in order. International methods, external methods and internal methods refer to settlement of industrial conflict by the parties themselves without any intervention from outside. The generally used internal methods are informal discussions, grievances procedure and collective bargaining. External methods involve third party intervention in the resolution of conflict between workers and management. The parties are conciliator, mediator and committee of inquiry and arbitrator.

Trade Union Structure

Since trade unions are organizations of workers for the protection of their common interests, it is this community of interest that constitutes the base for the formation of trade unions. But there are many possible interpretations of the term “Common interests”. It is one thing to say that interests of all workers are common but in really, the consciousness about the community of interest may not be deep enough to be widely perceived. Workers, being in different stages of group and class-consciousness, may have divergent interests and objectives, as they perceive them to be. Due to this divergence, a variety of structural types of unions have emerged.

Craft Unions

A craft union is thus an organization of wage earners engaged in a single occupation or craft. Such a craft union may cover all workers engaged in that craft, irrespective of the industries in which they are employed.

Industrial Unions

An Industrial union is organized on the basis of an industry rather than a craft. The industrial union attempts to organize into one homogenous organic group, all the workers-skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled –engaged in a particular industry or industrial establishment. Such unions may be formed at the plant, region or industry level.

General Unions

A general union is one whose membership may cover workers employed in many industries employments and crafts. It requires a very high degree of consciousness among the workers merging their separate industrial and occupational status to form such unions.

The following diagram may represent the trade union body politic from the structural viewpoint.

Figure: Structure of Trade Unions in Bangladesh

The above representation of the body politic clearly shows that in general it has four broader types of hierarchical organs. There are shown in the following:

Basic Union

Trade union at the plant or enterprise level is usually referred to as basic unions. They are formed at the unit or enterprise level with the membership of worker or employees of the particular unit or enterprise. Such a body being at the grass root level has the advantage to be closet to the rank and file members giving scope to know directly at first hand the day to day problems of the workers and deal with the same within the capacity of the union and if necessary to take their appropriate measures of appropriate time to mitigate these problems.

Industrial Federations of Trade Unions

A federation of trade union that works within the jurisdiction of a particular industry is referred to as an industrial federation. Such as federation, consisting of some unions (two or more) belonging to a particular industry provides a common platforms and a joint endeavor of workers employed in different enterprise or units of the industry. In general an industrial federation formulates charter of demands convey workers’ grievances to the authority or to the Employees’ Association negotiates with the authorities concerned, and takes necessary step contingent on the result of their negotiations.

National Federation of Trade Union

A National federation is as apex organization of trade unions within the country. So far as all types of trade union organizations, including national unions and industrial federations can be affiliated with any such federation of their choice. The federations units may take guidance from it for formulating characters of demands, organizing strikes and conducting negotiations with the management.

Regional Committee

This committee is alternatively known as zonal committee and is formed in different regions at the initiative of the central executive committee of the federation. The central committee may also determine its composition. It is constituted to ensure effective communication between central committee and basic union. We on the basis of filed information inform the central committee and this is very much essential at times of crisis.

Branch Committee

Branch Committee is an organ of the central committees. This committee helps collection of subscription from units, which otherwise becomes a difficult risk. The laws and policies of a government for industrial relations in fact, reflect the attitude of the government towards labour. Bangladesh has inherited most of her labour laws from the colonial period. At present there are as may as forty or above labour and industrial laws in operation concerning the issues and problems of industrial relation. Some of these laws have been designed in the light of the ILO convention ratified by the Bangladesh.

Weaknesses of Trade Unions in Bangladesh

  • Now a day, all trade unions have various flaws different countries. However, the followings are the weaknesses of Trade union leadership in Bangladesh.
  • Lack of consciousness: The major numbers of members of trade union are not actually completely aware about their legal rights and duties.
  • Lack of Unity: Trade Union is actually a unity of the labor force for assuring their need. But in Bangladesh trade unions are separated for political influence.
  • Lack of knowledge: In our country the level of workers is not properly educated. They don’t have enough knowledge about their rights and duties.
  • Influence of Political Parties: Close relationship of political parties with trade union also leads union leaders to be bribed by political parties to serve their interest.

Corruption practices: Corruption and labour racketeering have long been present in trade unions of different countries in different forms and degrees. Economic power, political power and an unholy alliance between might and trade union leaders provide opportunities for the corruption of trade union leaders.

Interference by the Government: Consequent upon the centralization of management at the national level, there has also been an attempt by the state to anticipate industrial conflict by removing it force its place of generation to the remoter area of government dominated administrative and judicial procedures which are concentrated around government operated conciliation and adjudication of industrial disputes.

Division of trade union: Bangladesh is a country where every organization has more trade unions in name only. Those unions are driven by the political leaders of various political parties. So a huge verity of problem arises in the organizations. The overall productivity got down.

Impacts of Trade Union:

Positive impacts:

Trade union plays a major role in creating ideal working conditions; Trade union always helps management to create better policies for workers; Trade unions negotiate for the standard wage and benefits with the management; Trade union helps the management to increases the productivity as well as the profit; Political influence’s existence makes the trade union not to interfere in management decisions; Trade union is hugely helping the management to produce more and implementing management tactics.

Negative impacts:

Trade Unions are creating a surplus of manpower but not of productivity; Trade union of Bangladesh bargains more than they understand because of the limitations of their knowledge. If don’t consult then they strike; Trade Unions have equal power of management then clashes are started; In companies labors are awarded for good work and threatened for bad work. But if it’s punished then trade union interfere and don’t let to happen the punishment. So it increases crime of the labors; Trade union leaders always try to save their interest first then the labor; For the power of politics trade union always dishonor the management.


Strengthening bilateral collective bargaining for solving problems quickly and effectively; Multiplicity of trade union creates the rivals in a union. So it must be reduced; Political involvement must be reduced;

Organization must support financially as trade unions support the worker; Training programs under trade union should be helpful to develop the skills of the workers; Trade union’s function should be increased and widened throughout the organization; Union leader must be given importance and encourage the members; If trust between workers and management increases, productivity increases; Management must help and guide trade unions to settle industrial clashes and crisis; Trade unions always should demand reasonable thing to the management.


The industrial relation system is pre-dominantly confrontational in nature rather than cooperative in Bangladesh. Although in recent times the rate of unionization has increased in the RMG sector, trade union affiliations low in Bangladesh compared too many other developing countries. The promotion of independent trade unions and collective bargaining can contribute to political and social stability and consequently create more favorable climate for foreign investment. Trade unions have an important role to play in settling disputes between workers and management over wages by way of collective bargaining. All the developing countries trade unions were influenced politically, but they used politics to create abettor solution. Bangladesh should also start practicing like Japanese trade union which has a single union for single enterprise. There is no conflict, no unfair means and no strikes in productivity and the growth of the overall economy.

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The Trade Union. (2016, Mar 20). Retrieved from

The Trade Union
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