Here are the rights and liabilities of registered trade unions under the Trade Union Act, 1926.
Funds of a general trade union cannot be spent on any other objects than the payment of salaries, allowances and expenses to the office bearers of the trade unions; expenses for the administration of the trade union; the presentation or defiance of any legal proceeding to which the trade union or any member thereof is a party; the conduct of trade disputes and compensation of members for loss arising out of trade disputes; provision of education, social or religious benefits for members; upkeep of a periodical published.
A registered trade union may constitute a separate fund, from contributions, separately levied for or made to that fund, from which payments may be made for the promotion of the civic and political interests of its members, in furtherance of any of the objects such as the payment of any expenses incurred, either directly or indirectly; the holding of any meeting or the distribution of any literature/documents in support of any such candidate; the registration of electors of the selection of a candidate for any legislative body constituted under or for any local authority; the registration of electors or the selection of a candidate for any legislative body constituted under/or for any local authority; holding of political meetings of any kind.
Under this act, no office-bearer or member of a registered trade union shall be liable to punishment under sub-section (2) of Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 in respect of any agreement made between the members for the purpose of furthering any such object of the trade union as is specified in section its unless the agreement is an agreement to commit an offence.
No suit or other legal proceeding shall be maintainable in any civil court against any registered trade union or any office bearer or member thereof in respect of any act done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute to which a member of the trade union is a party on the ground only that such act induces some other person to break a contract of employment, or that is in interference with the trade, business or employment of some other person or with the right of some other person to dispose of his capital or of his labour as he wills.
A registered trade union shall not be liable in any suit or other legal proceeding in any civil court in respect of any fortuitous act done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute by an agent of the trade union if it is proved that such person acted without the knowledge of, or contrary to express instructions given by the executive of the trade unions.
Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, an agreement between the members of a registered trade union shall not be void or voidable merely by reason of the fact that any to the subjects of the agreement are in restraint of the trade.
The account books of a registered trade union and the list of members thereof shall be open to inspection by an office-bearer or member of the trade union at such times as may be provided for in the rules of the trade union.
Any person who has attained the age of 18 years may be a member of a registered trade union subject to any rules of the trade union to the contrary, and may subject as aforesaid, enjoy all the rights of a member and execute all instruments and give all acquittances necessary to be executed or given under the rules.
The change in the name of a registered trade union shall not affect any rights or obligations of the trade union or render defective any legal proceeding by or against the trade union. An amalgamation of 2 or more registered trade unions shall not prejudice any right of any of such trade unions or any right of a creditor of any of them.
Trade union movement in our country suffers from the following weaknesses:
Trade unions are concentrated in the large-scale industry sector and in big industrial centers. There is very little trade union activity in the small sector, agricultural labour and domestic sector. Trade unionism has touched only a portion of the working class in India.
Most of the unions have low membership though the number of unions and union membership are increasing, average membership is inadequate.
The average yearly income of unions is very low and inadequate. The subscription rates are low and many members do not pay the subscription in time. Due to their financial weakness, most of the unions are not in a position to undertake welfare programmes for workers.
Trade unions are under the leadership and control of political parties and outsiders. Politicians exploit unions and workers for their personal and political gains. Thus, the political leadership is very harmful to the trade union movement in India.
There exist several unions in the same establishment or industry. The existence of rival unions with conflicting ideology is greatly responsible for the unhealthy growth of trade union movement. In some cases, employers encourage split into unions to undermine their bargaining power.
Employers are under no obligation to give recognition to any union.
Most of the unions do not have Hill-time paid office-bearers. Union activists working on honorary basis devote only limited time and energy to union activities. Union officers lack adequate knowledge and skill due to lack of proper training, weak financial position and political leadership are the main reasons for this state of affairs.
Majority of workers do not take a keen interest in union activities. The attendance at the general meetings of unions is very poor.
Trade unions in India have to face opposition from employers. Many employers try to intimidate or victimise labour leaders, start rival union and bribe union officials.
Multiple unions create a rivalry. Unions try to play down each other in order to gain greater influence among workers. Employers take advantage of infighting. Inter-union rivalry weakens the power of collective bargaining and reduces the effectiveness of workers in securing their legitimate rights.