National Commission on Labour (1967)||
26.4 The development of trade union organisation among industrial employees of
1 Section 13 b of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
Government has proceeded more or less on the same lines as in the case of industrial workers in general. Railway employees were among the first to organise themselves. Several railway unions came into existence in the years immediately after the First World War. The Whitley Commission referred to the unions functioning in most of the Class I Railways, on some of which there were more unions than one operating. Almost all of them were registered under the Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926 and many had received some measure of recognition from the Railway Administrations concerned.1 Since Independence, the forces that have shaped the development of the trade union movement as a whole—such as the democratic set-up in the country, a general awareness on the part of workers in respect of their rights and privileges and the influence of political parties—have had their impact on the growth of unions in this sector also. Though there have been no statutory provisions for recognising unions, in practice, the arrangements which were evolved for the setting up of the Permanent Negotiating Machinery for the Railways (referred to later) did help in giving unions a better status and in fostering their growth.
26.5 Structurally, the unions in the Railways and Posts and Telegraphs have been organised at the zonal/regional level and federated into national unions/federations. This structure has emerged as a result of the way the work of the two Departments is organised. Unions of employees in the different Railways were reorganised on a zonal basis when the Railways themselves were so grouped. These zonal unions are affiliated to the two federations at the all-India level. The All-India Railway-men's Federation (AIRF) and the Indian National Railway Workers' Federation merged into the National Federation of Indian Railway-men (NFIR) in 1953, but this unity was short-lived and the All India Railwaymen's Federation separated from the NFIR in 1956. Further efforts to bring about unity in the Federations did not succeed. The two Federations have affiliated unions in each of the zonal Railways, as also in the two manufacturing units, viz., the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works in West Bengal and the Integral Coach Factory in Tamil Nadu. The two Federations and their constituents in the zonal Railways are recognised by the Railway Board and the concerned Railway administration. Unions in the two manufacturing units have gone unrecognised, irrespective of the fact whether they are affiliated to either of the two Federations or not. All policy matters regarding wages and conditions of work are decided at the all-India level by the Railway Board within the broad framework of the recommendations of the Pay Commission and other Commissions appointed by the Central Government. Matters relating to the staff, which are peculiar to a zone and are capable of being decided at the zonal level, are settled in consultation with the zonal unions. In 1964-65, 89 unions in Railways which submitted returns, had a membership of 534,000, or about 40 per cent of all railway employees.
''26.6 At present, the system of recognition of unions subject to their fulfilling certain conditions is fairly well established in all these departmental undertakings. In the Railways, the zonal unions are accorded recognition on satisfying the following conditions:
(i) It (union) must consist of a distinct class of railway employees and must not be formed on the basis of any caste, tribe or religious denomination;
(ii) All railway employees of the same class must be eligible for membership;
(iii) It must be registered under the Trade Unions Act;
(iv) Its membership should not be less than 15 per cent of the total number of non-gazetted staff employed on the railway concerned;
(v) It should not be sectional, i.e., unions composed either of one category or a limited category of workers should not be recognised; and
(vi) It should not be, in the opinion of the Railway Administration, likely to engage itself in subversive activities.
26.7 The recognition, apart from entitling the concerned trade union to discuss with the Administration matters in respect of staff, enables it to have certain facilities from the Railway Administration in the conduct of its business. These facilities inter alia are: complimentary railway passes for office bearers, passes for union meetings, special casual leave to attend meetings, railway accommodation to house union offices, telephone facilities and sending workers in active service on deputation to unions as full time workers.
1 The Whitley Commission, however, had this to say about the policy of recognition : "a more generous policy in respect of recognition would be to the advantage of all concerned in railway work and we commend this matter for the careful consideration of administration".
26.8 At the end of August, 1968, 25 associations/unions representing various cadres of officers and staff of the Posts and Telegraphs Department were recognised by Government. Ten of these were federated unions, four non-federated associations, eight associations of gazetted officers, two unions of industrial workers, and one composite union representing both industrial and non-industrial staff (the Telephone Workers' Union). The 10 federated unions, comprising 9 all-India unions/associations of particular categories of class III and Class IV employees and a federation of these all-India bodies, cover the large majority of organised employees. The Federation was the outcome of repeated efforts to bring about a realignment of the existing unions, which ultimately took shape in 1954. Under the scheme, the Class III and Class IV employees of the Department were organised into 9 all-India unions covering the Class III and Class IV categories of employees in the R.M.S. and postal services, telegraph employees in both categories and belonging to the traffic and engineering departments, and the line staff and employees in administrative offices.
26.9 These all-India bodies, which have branches at the Circle and Divisional levels, formed into a federation—the National Federation of Posts & Telegraphs Employees. The Federation has an arrangement with the P. and T. Department (Board) by which no new unions representing Class III and Class IV employees in the postal, R.M.S. and telegraph services and the administrative offices will be recognised. The Federation on its side has given an undertaking that it will not disaffiliate or expel any union; the federating unions have abjured their right to secede from the Federation. The unions are to function under democratic principles. The Federation will have no power to interfere in the internal management of unions except in so far as may be specified in its constitution or in so far as it may be invited by its affiliate to interfere. All the 9 all-India unions and the Federation have the right of representation to the P. and T. Board, and in case of disagreement, the Federation can take up the matter at a higher level. After the strike of September 19, 1968, the federated unions, including the national federation, were derecognised and 8 new associations were granted provisional recognition.
26.10 The Defence employees have two Federations viz., the Indian National Defence Workers' Federation and the All-India Defence Employees' Federation. The Defence Ministry deals with both these federations, as both have a fairly large following among different sectors/ sections of defence workers in different areas. Each federation has generally its own union at the plant level.1
26.11 In regard to (i) promoting bipartite consultation/negotiations through recognition, formal or informal, and (ii) the right of unions to represent their employees, the Defence department and undertakings belonging to them have generally adopted a pragmatic approach.
26.12 Unions of Government industrial employees are not free from the issues facing the trade union movement in general, such as multiplicity, category-wise or craft-wise unions, outsiders in unions, and the influence of political parties. The Study Group on Rail Transport which examined some of these issues stressed the need for and desirability of encouraging consolidation of the trade union movement on the Railways with a view to have only one recognised representative body of railwaymen. The group also recommended, inter alia, steps (a) to discourage multiplicity of unions through non-recognition of any new union where there are already two recognised unions affiliated to either federation, (b) to discourage formation of category-wise unions, and (c) to encourage building up of rank and file leadership.
26.13 We have dealt with these and other issues concerning the trade unions in an earlier Chapter. Our recommendations in this regard would be equally applicable to the trade unions of Government (Industrial) employees. We would, however, refer only to the issues of union recognition in departmental undertakings. In their evidence before us, representatives of these undertakings had urged the need for continuing the present practice of recognising more than one union/federation. We are not convinced that the position in these undertakings is so fundamentally different from that in other undertakings, whether in the public or private sector, as to warrant a change in principle. If one union alone is to be recognised, the general principles we have laid down elsewhere2 will apply also to unions of the employees covered in this chapter.