In India, Trade Unions and Political parties had a long and established association. Strong tie between the Political Parties and Trade Union are witnessed since independence till contemporary era. Different ideologies were backed with different vision for the Trade Unions in India, For communists, Trade Unions were merely a instrument for promoting the communist ideologies. Nationalists found Trade Union as the source to achieve their ultimate goal i.e., Independence. But for the moderates, Trade Union were the matter of their own Rights, i.e., importance was given to the workers and their welfare and not for the subjugation of any political aims and personal interests. Thus, Trade Unions have always been the opportunity to political parties for spreading their political ideologies and not an organization working for the welfare and rights of the workers. Being a colonial nation of the Britishers, Indian Labour Unions were always supported and sponsored by the Political parties. The formation of AITUC was done with guidance of the Indian National Congress, as the leaders were aware with the exploitation done with the workers. It was also an opportunity with the Indian National Congress to get together the working class for the independence of the nation.
Where Union needs guidance and funding from Political Parties, political parties also needs supports to come into power. This is the basic give and take relation between the Political Parties and the Trade Union. Leader of the Trade Union works for the betterment of worker, hence all the workers follow their leader. When leader supports any particular political party, the whole union supports that party. Eventually because of this relation developed between both of them, Political Parties are in position to influence the working of the Trade Union according to their Ideologies. Some of the prominent Trade unions which are affiliated with the ideologies of particular Political Parties:
- The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) – It was formed in May 1947 and works under the ideologies of the Congress Party.
- The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) – It was formed in 1920 and works on the ideologies of the Communist party.
- Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) – this union works on the ideologies of the Bhartiya Jan Sangh Party.
Trade unions get engaged with the Political action for securing good working and living conditions for the workers. Predominantly, Unions used the Political methods to secure the benefits of their members. The main features of the Trade Union’s political actions can be:
- Exerting pressure for purpose of protective or other pro labour legislation.
- Demanding for welfare amenities at the instance of state.
- Setting up of labour parties of developing allegiance to one political party or the other and securing control over industries.
The relation of the Union and the Political Party becomes more stronger when the party is in power through which Union is connected. Following can be the result of the strong relation between Political Parties and Policies of the Trade Union:
- Union leaders can represent their union in the party as a leader.
- Political consideration determining strategies and actions (example strike) of unions.
- The relations between union activity and political elections.
- The commitment of the leadership and recognition to the Union leaders.
- The reward mechanism for the union leaders.
Trade Union can send their representatives to the Legislative assembly and parliament through election, by which they can safeguard their interests in the Assemblies and Parliament by influencing the law in favour of the working class. George Fernandes, is one of the passionate trade union worker who became a famous Political Leader. He represented the working class in the Parliament and worked for the welfare of the working class.
It is not just the participation, Trade Unions do have effective participation in the Politics. Unions do have that power which can influence the decisions of the government; it is because the questions raised by the unions regarding their wages and working condition are of important political implications. The democratic character of Indian Society provides ample of space for variety of political parties with different ideologies. Since there are many Political Parties, the demand of every worker is related to some or the other party’s ideology, which creates an opportunity for the Political Parties to gain the confidence of the Union and win the power in elections. It can be interpreted that Political Parties consider Unions as a vote bank and that becomes the major reason for which the demand made by the unions are taken into consideration by the parties.
As an example of affiliation of Trade Unions and Political Parties, we can study the relation between Indian National Congress and INTUC. They have a co-ordination committee to establish direct connection to each other. INC is a political superior of the INTUC. It is the mutual co-operative agreement between the parties with the primary objective of well being of the Labour community. INTUC is valued equally as of INC, where INTUC being supreme in the Union matters, the INC will lead in the matter related to Politics. That means if any member from INTUC wants to contest election than that individual is obliged to get approval from the INC party. The working of the INTUC will reflect the ideologies of the INC. and INC will be obliged to work in favour of the Labors of INTUC union.