DMPQ- What were the factors which led to the development of Trade union movement in India?

1918-1924: The early trade union phase

This period marked the birth of true trade union movement in India. It was organised along the lines of unions in the industrialised world. The deteriorated living conditions caused by the first world war and the exposure with the outside world resulted in heightened class consciousness amongst the workers. This provided fertile ground to the development of the movement. This period is known as the early trade union period.

AITUC, the oldest trade union federation in India was set up in 1920. It was founded by Lala Lajpat Rai, Joseph Baptista, N.M Joshi and Diwan Chaman Lall. Lajpat Rai was elected the first president of AITUC Upto 1945 Congressmen, Socialists, Communists worked in the AITUC which was the central trade union organisation of workers of India. Subsequently the trade union movement got split on political lines. The unions affiliated to AITUC are from textile, engineering, coal, steel, road transport, electricity board and of unorganised sector such as beedi, construction and head-load workers, anganwadi, local bodies and handloom. Recently a number of agriculture workers’ unions have affiliated themselves to AITUC

Factors that influenced the growth of the movement:

  • Spiralling prices during War and the mass entrenchment of workers that followed it led to low living standards. Also, the wretched working conditions added to their woes. Hence, they sought collective bargaining power through unionisation.
  • Development of Home Rule, the emergence of Gandhian leadership and the socio-political conditions led to the nationalist leadership taking interest in the worker’s plight. Workers, in turn, was looking for professional leadership and guidance.
  • Russian revolution and other international developments (like setting up of International Labour Organisation in 1919) boosted their morale.


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