Role and Powers of Employee Representatives

Law Employment Law

In India, there is no particular definition of an Employee Representative. However, in other countries, employee representatives are those who represent the grievance of the employee, which happens due to the management or administration of the employer.  In India, the scope of employee representative is defined under Trade Unions Act, 1926.      

The trade union has been defined under Section 2(h) of the trade unions act and according to the plain reading of the same, an employee representative comes under the ambit of the trade union, wherein the representative can bargain, negotiate the grievance of workmen, before the employer or any other competent authority. Hence, the employee representative in India can be formed as a trade union with specific conditions and exceptions.

There are roles and powers of the trade union, some are defined under the act, whereas some of them are for the objective of the act, moreover, the trade Union apart from the specific role prescribed under the act shall take the measures, to attain the social justice, i.e., any step which will be for the welfare of workers shall be in a collective basis, not on an individual basis.

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Roles and Power of Employee Representatives:

  • Secure Fair wages to workers- The much-needed objective of the act, is that the Trade Union shall be constituted to secure fair wages to workers to prevent the exploitation of the worker.
  • Safeguard the security of service- The trade union should play a vital role, in securing the service of the worker, which will impact the livelihood of his family, as well.
  • Improve working and living conditions- The trade union shall dedicate its role to providing a healthy and hygienic working environment to the worker and also take certain measures to improve the living standard of the worker and his family.
  • Promote collective Welfare- The trade union shall encourage not only the individual welfare of workers but also to take certain measures which will be beneficial for the worker at large.


Statutory Roles and Power Under the Trade Union Act

1. Utilization of Funds

The funds of a registered trade union shall be spent based on a rule prescribed under Section 15 of the Trade Union Act, the funds shall be spent on payment of salaries, payment of expenses, payment for expenses in any legal proceeding, payment for the compensation to members, arising out of trade dispute, allowance on account of sickness, payment for educational, social and religious benefits of the members

2. Separate Funds for Political Purpose

The registered union may constitute a separate fund, which has to be utilized for the civic and political interests of the members. The funds shall be spent mainly on:

  • The payment of any expenses incurred, either directly or indirectly, by a candidate or prospective candidate for election
  •  The holding of any meeting or the distribution of any literature or documents in support of any such candidate or prospective candidate; or
  • The maintenance of any person who is a member of any legislative body constituted under the Constitution, or for any local authority; or
  • The registration of electors or the selection of a candidate for any legislative body constituted under the Constitution or for any local authority;

3. Immunity from Punishment Under Criminal Conspiracy

According to section 17, of the trade unions act, no member shall be liable for punishment of criminal conspiracy for any agreement between the member, unless the agreement is an agreement to commit the offence.

4. Immunity from Civil Suit

According to Section 18 of the trade unions act, no petition of the civil suit will be maintainable against any member of the trade union before a civil court, arising out of a trade dispute.

5. Collective Bargaining:

The Hon’ble Apex in the matter of KARNAL LEATHER KARAMCHARI SANGATHAN V. LIBERTY FOOTWEAR COMPANY, (1989) 4 SCC 448 has laid down the settled principle of law that the primary objective of the Trade union is the collective bargaining of all the workers. The Hon’ble Apex Court held that the trade unions Act seeks to achieve social justice based on collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is a technique by which dispute as to conditions of employment is resolved amicably by agreement rather than coercion. The dispute is settled peacefully and voluntarily although reluctantly between labor and management.

6. Collective Welfare

The Hon’ble Bombay High Court in the matter of MST. DEOLI BAKARAM Vs. THE STATE INDUSTRIAL COURT, NAGPUR, AIR 1959 BOM. 70 laid down the settled principle of law that the trade union shall take measures with the intention to provide collective welfare, not based on individual welfare. The Court further held that the Union did not very much bother about them because they were not members of the Union. The law permits a recognized Union to enter into certain agreements with the employer, the agreements would be binding

No doubt, the law allows a recognized Union to enter into certain types of agreements with the employer, which agreements would be binding even on non-members.

Where such is the case there is a very heavy duty resting on the Union concerned as well as the employer to see to it that the interests of the workers who do not belong to the recognised Union are well protected. They also must see that the workers are not discriminated against. Here, we find from the evidence of Panthaki, the Factory Manager, that several workers who thought they had served for more than 30 years we’re still retained and allowed to work. The court further held that it is possible that that was because they were members of the Union which had negotiated the agreement. Even if that were not so, the action of the employer in continuing the employment of some workers whose cases fell within the so-called agreement appears to be highly discriminatory.