Read this article to learn about the concept and statistics of Trade Union membership!
Apart from the problem of fragmentation of unions, the number of unionised workers is low. It is difficult to give the number of members of trade unions as there is no authentic data on this.
The Registrar of Trade Unions is expected to maintain records of union membership based on the returns submitted by the registered unions.
However, these figures are not reliable as there may be cases of underestimation, when unions do not send their returns regularly, or overestimation of membership. The membership of unions is restricted mainly to the 8 per cent of workers who belong to the organised sector.
The rate of unionisation in the public sector, which employs 70 per cent of workers in the organised sector, is estimated to be around 80 per cent, while unionisation in the private sector is much lower. Taking into account these factors, the percentage of unionised workers in the organised sector should be around 50 per cent. Membership in unions in the unorganised sector is small, with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), the largest union, having a membership of a little over 10, 00,000 in 2010, and the total percentage of unionised workers should be around 5 per cent of the labour force in this segment.
The number of employees covered by collective wage agreements works out to a mere 1 per cent of the labour force (Venkat Ratnam 1994: 6). Nevertheless, the unionised section of workers in the organised sector is extremely vocal and is able to wrest more benefits from the employers as well as the government. Table 5.1 shows the trade union membership .compiled by Subesh Das.
The scholar has collected his data from the state labour offices and compiled them in the table 5.1. It is quite clear from the data that the total membership of 24.88 million (2.49 crore) is just a small part of the total workforce of 467 million (46.7 crore) in 2002.
Table 5.1: Membership of Central Trade Unions, 1980-2002 (Millions):
Recent figures on trade union membership show that despite liberalisation the unions have experienced high increase in membership. We find from the Labour Department figures for 2002 that unions on an average have increased their membership five times over that in 1987. Besides the general increase, there have been sharp increases in membership in all the national federations.
BMS had the largest numbers in the earlier verification and it has retained its position, the increase being dramatic, from around 1.48 million in 1987 to 6.22 million in 2002. It has left its nearest rival INTUC far behind with a membership of 3.95 million (from around 2.69 million members earlier). AITUC membership has grown from around 0.94 million in 1987 to 2.68 million in 2002. The other central trade union federations are HMS, CITU, UTUC and SEWA.