Trade Union Under the Trade Union Act
What’s a trade union and how is it registered?

Meaning and Registration of Trade Union Under the Trade Union Act, 1926

A trade union, primarily, is a collection of workers in a given trade, industry, or company who come together to negotiate an improvement in their jobs, benefits, working conditions, or social and political status. Both employers and workers can form a trade union.

In India, all laws relating to trade unions are dealt with by the Trade Union Act of 1926. Nonetheless, the Act does not require that all trade unions be registered, but it outlines the registration procedures and privileges of registration.

This article discusses a trade union’s meaning, objectives, privileges, and the procedure for becoming a registered trade union under the Trade Union Act, 1926.

Bare Act PDFs

What Is a Trade Union?

As per section 2(h) of the Trade Union Act, 1926, trade union means any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily to regulate the relations between workmen and employers or between workmen and workmen, or between employers and employers or to impose restrictions on the conduct of any trade or business. In general, a trade union is an organization created to represent the interests of workers or employers.

Before 1926, the workers were not allowed to form any trade union. The trade unions of the workers were illegal before 1926. The Trade Union Act of 1926 allowed the workers to form a trade union for themselves.

Examples of some trade unions in India:

  • All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)
  • Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS)
  • Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)
  • Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS)
  • Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA)

Objectives of a Trade Union

Following are the objectives of a trade union:

  • To facilitate effective collective bargaining;
  • To encourage the worker to register themselves as a trade union;
  • To act as a pressure group;
  • To secure certain social and economic benefits for the workers.

Procedure for Registration of a Trade Union

The procedures for registering a trade union are given from section 3 to section 14 of the Trade Union Act, 1926.

1. Section 3

Section 3 of the Trade Union Act talks about the appointment of the registrar. It states that the government will appoint a registrar, who will be responsible for registering trade unions that meet the Act’s conditions.

2. Section 4

According to section 4 of the Trade Union Act, before the amendment of 2001, only seven members were required to form a trade union. After the 2001 amendment, 10% of the total workers or a minimum of 100 workers, whichever is less, is required to form a trade union.

This 2001 amendment applies to the trade union of the workers only. For the trade union of the employer, the old rule is applicable, i.e., seven or more members.

This new rule has a proviso that says that the total number of members (for both worker and employer trade unions) can never be less than seven. Subsection 2 says that while making the registration to the registrar, a minimum seven-member subject to 10% member or a minimum of 100, whichever is less, is required.

For example, suppose an industry (say X) has 60 workers and 10 employers. The workers of industry X cannot form a trade union because the 10% of 60 = 6 workers do not fulfil the minimum criteria, that is, 7 workers. On the other hand, employers can form a trade union because employers are more than 7.

Further, at the time of registration, the registrar will check if the trade union has the support of a minimum of 50% of the total members working in that industry at the time of registration. If it is not, he will not register the trade union.

3. Section 5

Section 5 of the Trade Union Act, talks about registration applications. It says every application under section 4(1) shall contain:

  • The name of the trade union and the address of its head office;
  • The occupations and addresses of the members making the application;
  • Information about the title, name, age, address, and occupation of the union’s officers. The titles, names, ages, addresses and occupations of the office-bearers of the trade union.

Section 5(2) further says that if the trade union has been in existence for more than one year before making the application, then it also submit a general statement of the assets and liabilities of the trade union.

4. Section 6

Section 6 of the Trade Union Act, covers the essential requirements of the trade union’s rules, such as:

  • The name of the trade union;
  • The objective of the trade union;
  • The general fund;
  • Maintenance of a list of members;
  • Rules for the admission of ordinary members;
  • How a member of the executive shall be appointed or removed;
  • The annual audit reports, etc.

5. Section 7

Under section 7 of the Trade Union Act, the registrar will see the name of the trade union. If it resembles any other pre-existing trade union, the registrar shall refuse to register such union and ask the persons applying for registration to alter the name of such trade union.

6. Section 8

After sections 5, 6, 7, the registrar under section 8 of the Trade Union Act, shall register the name of such union as the registered trade union and enter the name of the trade union in a register maintained in such form as may be prescribed by the appropriate government and issue a certificate of registration.

7. Section 9

According to section 9 of the Trade Union Act, the registered trade union under section 8 shall be a piece of conclusive evidence and, no question will be asked whether it is a registered trade union or not for this Act.

Section 9A says that, if after the registration of trade unions under section 8, the members of such trade unions decrease below 10% of the total members, or below 100 as the case may be, the registrar shall revoke the certificate. The provisions of section 9A apply only to trade unions of workers.

8. Section 10

Section 10 of the Trade Union Act, relates to the cancellation of registration. It talks about the grounds for cancellation of the certificate of registration:

  • At the request of the trade union;
  • When the register finds the certificate was obtained by fraud, error or deliberate violation of a provision of this Act;
  • A registered trade union of workers loses the necessary number of members.

Before the certificate may be withdrawn or revoked, the registrar shall provide to the trade union a minimum of two-month advance written notice setting forth the reasons for the cancellation.

9. Section 11

Section 11 of the Trade Union Act talks about appeals. It states that anyone who has been harmed by a registrar’s decision can seek an appeal. It is important to remember that an appeal can only be available against a registrar’s negative ruling, such as a rejection of registration, withdrawal, or cancellation of registration. No appeal may be made against the registrar’s affirmative order. For example, if the registrar gives the certificate of registration and any other trade union is aggrieved by such order then, that trade union cannot file an appeal against such order. Section 11 also talks about where the appeals lie. It says that:

  • If the headquarter of the trade union is within the presidency town’s jurisdiction, an appeal lies within the High Court.
  • If the trade union’s headquarters are within the jurisdiction of a labour court or labour tribunal, the appeal lies to that court or tribunal.
  • If the headquarter of the trade union is within the jurisdiction of the principal civil court, an appeal will lie to such civil court.

10. Section 13

Section 13 of the Trade Union Act, says that every registered trade union:

  • Shall be a body corporate by its name;
  • Has perpetual succession;
  • Has a common seal;
  • Has the power to acquire or hold both movable and immovable properties;
  • Can sue or be sued by others.

11. Section 14

According to section 14 of the Trade Union Act, the registration of a union is only possible through the Trade Union Act, 1926 and registration under any other law shall be void.

Privileges to a Registered Trade Union

1. Section 17 of the Trade Union Act talks about immunity from criminal conspiracy. It says that no office-bearer or member of a registered trade union shall be liable to punishment under section 120B of IPC (punishment for criminal conspiracy). But it does not protect against any agreement to commit an offence.

2. Section 18 of the Trade Union Act talks about immunity from civil suits. The Act stipulates that no action or legal proceeding will be brought against any trade union or its office-bearer or member for any conduct done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute to which the member of the trade union is a party only on the grounds listed below:

  • Induce other people to break the contract of employment;
  • Interference with the trade, business or employment of some other person;
  • Interference with another person’s trade, business, or employment, or interference with his right to dispose of his capital or labour at his discretion.

If the trade union goes further beyond these three grounds, then the protection given under section 18 will not be available.

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Ritesh Kumar is pursuing LL.B (3rd year) from Banaras Hindu University. He is enthusiastic and passionate about his career. Ritesh loves to write on legal issues, particularly Family Law, Criminal Law, Contract and Arbitration.
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