Registration confers on a Trade union certain rights and privileges

Registration confers on a Trade union certain rights and privileges’


‘Be you ever so high, the law is above you’

—Thomas Fuller, quoted by Lord Denning M.R. in Gourlet v Union of Post Office Workers (1977) W.B. 729

Trade Union Act 1871

It was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which legalized trade unions for the first time in the United Kingdom. This was one of the founding pieces of legislation in UK labor law, though it has today been superseded by the Trade Union and Labor Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

The Trade Unions Act 1926

It is one of the old enactments in the field of Labor Laws but it is a conservative piece of legislation in as much as it as it deals only with the registration of the trade unions and legal status of registered trade unions. The constitution of India confers on all citizens a fundamental right to from associations or unions. The right to form union is thus doubly recognized in India by the constitution of India and The Trade Unions Act 1926.

Trade Union Trade Union means any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employers or between workmen and workmen, or between employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business.[1] It includes federation of two or more trade unions.

Trade Union Section 2(h) of the Trade Unions Act, 1926 has defined a trade union as “Any combination, whether temporary or permanent, formed primarily for the purpose of regulating the relations between workmen and employers, or between workmen and workmen, or between employers and employers, or for imposing restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business, and includes any federation of two or more trade unions.”

Provisions of the Act

The Trade Union can be registered only under the Trade Unions Act, 1926 and

the registration of the Trade Unions under any other Act such as the following shall be void:

The Societies Registration Act, 1860

The Cooperative Societies Act, 1912

The Companies Act, 1956

Section 2 stated that the purposes of trade unions should not, although possibly deemed to be in restraint of trade, be deemed unlawful to make any member liable for criminal prosecution.

In terms of this section every registered trade union must adhere to generally accepted accounting practices, principles and procedures.

Section 6 provided a system of voluntary registration, which carried some small advantages. It also allowed union members to access the financial records of the union

Object of the Act

The object of passing the Act was to make necessary provisions in regard to the registration of Trade Unions and to define the law relating to registered Trade Unions.

Registration Central to System

Registration confers a role that affords the organizations privileges in representing their members’ interests. Registration confers appearance and representation privileges that can displace individual rights. Also, taxation benefits are granted to registered organizations and it is very difficult for new bodies to achieve registration. In many respects the result is a closed enclave of privileged organizations that resist reforms to advance accountability and competition. The considerable privileges of registration are enjoyed notwithstanding declining representation. Trade union members now account for only 13 per cent of the private sector workforce. A continuation of the falling membership trend will inevitably raise questions about the legitimacy of the system.

Compliance with Court Orders

Defiance of the rule of law in this way cannot be tolerated. Organizations that enjoy many statutory protections and privileges should face severe penalties when they choose to ignore the law by defying orders of the courts.

Trade Dispute

Trade dispute is the recent unsolved problem between employer and employees or between employer and another employer or between employee and employee while the dispute is concerned with employment or non-employment or the working condition at the work place of a person.

Advantages of registration as a trade union

The registration of Trade Union is not legally necessary but it brings certain

advantages which are:

Legal recognition as the negotiating body for public sector employees

Legal rights, immunities and privileges

Protected status within an industry or trade

Freedom of association for public sector employees

Bargaining Power Trade Union members have the skills and experience of the whole Trade Union behind them. This can be essential when management and workers are negotiating wage rises, overtime, or trying to protect jobs.

Workers Rights Workers have the right not to be discriminated against for any reason at all. Common types of discrimination include age, gender, sexuality, religion, color, race, and politics.

Campaigns The TGWU campaigns range from national campaigns that affect all workers in every sector in every industry, such as pensions, or the minimum wage, to campaigns that may only affect a comparatively much smaller number of workers, such as a factory closure, or a call centre mobbing its operations abroad.

Other Benefits In addition Trade Union members have other useful benefits such as legal representation such as in tribunals or other disciplinary hearings. Trade Unions are also involved in policy research for Government, and other countries.

Disadvantages of registration as a trade union

These may be summarized under the following heads:

Restrictive rules on membership

Restrictive rules on the receipt of foreign donations

Rights and Privileges

Under section 15 a registered trade union has a right to establish a general fund. Under section 16, a registered trade union has a right to establish a political fund. Subscription to this fund is not necessary for a member. Under section 17, 18, and 19 a registered trade union gets immunity in certain criminal, civil, and contractual proceedings.

Under section 24, trade unions have the right to amalgamate. It further provides that the executive is entitled to post notices of the trade union meant for its members at any premises where they are employed and that the employer shall provide reasonable facilities for that.

Immunities available to a registered Trade Union

Section 17 confers immunity from liability in the case of criminal conspiracy under section 120-B of IPC, committed by an office bearer or a member. However, this immunity is partial in the sense that it is available only with respect to the legal agreements created by the members for the furtherance of valid objects of a trade union as described in section 15 of the act. The immunity cannot be claimed for an act that is an offence. Registered Trade Unions have certain rights to do in furtherance of their trade disputes such as calling for strike, persuading members.

Registration confers on the Trade Union certain rights and privileges. Similarly some rights are granted to the member of a registered Trade Union both collectively and individually. These are as under:

Immunity from provision of criminal conspiracy in trade disputesOffice bearer of a trade union shall not be liable to punishment in respect of agreement made between members for purpose of object of trade union, unless the agreement is agreement to commit an offence. [2]Thus, office bearer of trade union cannot be prosecuted for criminal conspiracy in respect of agreement relating to object of trade union.

Immunity from civil suit A civil suit or other legal proceeding is not maintainable against any registered trade union or office bearer in furtherance of trade union activity on the ground that:

such act induces some person to break a contract of employment or

It is in interference with the trade, business or employment of some other person

Trade Union is a body corporate Registered Trade Union shall be a body corporate by the name under which it is registered. It will have perpetual succession and a common seal. It can acquire both movable and immovable property in its own name and contract in its own name.

Fund for political purposesTrade Union can constitute separate fund for political purposes

Executive Committee and Office Bearers of Union The management of trade union will be conducted by ‘executive’. It is a body by whatever name called. Thus, controlling body of Trade Union may be called as ‘Executive Body’ or ‘Governing Body’ or ‘Managing Committee’ or any such name. The members of the executive body are termed as ‘Officer Bearers’.

Annual Returns Every registered trade union will prepare a general statement of assets and liabilities of trade Union as on 31st December. The statement will be sent to Registrar along with information about change of office bearers during the year.

Labor-management dispute- “dispute” means a difference or apprehended difference between an employer or group of employers, and one or more of his or her or their employees or a trade union, as to matters or things affecting or relating to terms or conditions of employment or work done or to be done; or the privileges, rights, duties, terms and conditions, or tenure of, employment or working conditions of the employee or employees or trade union

Effect of registration

The registration of a trade union shall render it a body corporate by the name under which it is registered, and, subject to the provisions of this Act with perpetual succession and with power to hold property real or personal and to enter into contracts, to institute and defend suits and other legal proceedings and to do all things necessary to for the purposes of its constitution.

Rights of employees

Employees have the right to organize in and to form, join or assist trade unions and to bargain collectively through a trade union of their own choosing; and the trade union designated or selected for the purpose of bargaining collectively by the majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for that purpose shall be the exclusive representative of all employees in that unit for the purpose of bargaining collectively.

Right to form trade unions and to strike

There is a system of compulsory registration under the Trade Union Ordinance (Cap. 332). Under section 5(5) of the Ordinance, the officers of any trade union which fails to register are liable to a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment for six months. Trade unions are obliged by law to report to the Registrar where there are changes to the rule book, or the offices and branches operated by the trade unions.

Right to social welfare

The right to social welfare is protected under Article 36 of the Basic Law, which further provides that the welfare benefits and retirement security of the labor force shall be protected by law.

Both employees and employers have to contribute, as long as the salary of the employee exceeds a statutorily stipulated level. However, there is no social insurance in Hong Kong.

Legal status of registered trade union

It has power to acquire and hold both movable and immovable property and to enter into contracts No legal proceeding can be filed in any civil court against it in respect of any act in furtherance of a trade dispute even if such act induces some other person to break a contracts of employment or is in interference with the trade business or employment of some other person or

Is in interference with right of some other person to dispose of his capital or his labor as he wills.

Any agreement between its members is not void or voidable even if its object is in restraint of trade


As will be seen from what has gone before, trade unions in Australia, as participants in a market for goods and services and as major commercial organizations, stand in a very different position from other participants in the market and such organizations. They can carry on businesses and profitably dispose of property without liability to tax on the gains. It is, of course, for others to judge whether or not this situation serves a discernible public interest but in the face of these privileges it is hardly a matter.

This has engendered in some a culture that they are above the rule of law and that disregarding lawful obligations does not matter. [3]The consequences of disregarding the law are seen by some as inconsequential to the pursuit of other goals.


Annual Report of Fair Work Australia 1 July 2010 – 30 June 2011, P20

Annual Report of Fair Work Australia 1 July 2009 – 30 June 2010, P 21

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the most developed example, see in German labour law the Mitbestimmungsgesetz 1976 and the Betriebsverfassungsgesetz 1972 §87. Member states with no participation rights are Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the United Kingdom.

See the Bubble Act 1725 and the Combination Act 1799

See Employee Involvement Directive 2001/86/EC

See Rigby v Connel (1880) 4 Ch D 482 and Lee v Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain [1952]

2 QB 359

The LAC in National Entitled Workers Union v Ministry of Labor & Others (2010) 31 ILJ

574 (LAC) stated as follows: “[7] The registrar is an important functionary in terms of the LRA and is tasked, inter alia, with ensuring due compliance by registered trade unions the obligations imposed upon them by the LRA. The registrar is defined in the LRA as ‘the registrar of labor relations’ and is the fourth respondent in this appeal.”

“(a) by 31 March each year, a statement, certified by the secretary that it accords with its records, showing the number of members as at 31 December of the previous year and any other related details that may be required by the registrar ;

(b) within 30 days of receipt of its auditor’s report, a certified copy of that report and of the financial statements;

(c) within 30 days of receipt of a written request by the registrar, an explanation of anything relating to the statement of membership, the auditor’s report or the financial statements;

(d) within 30 days of any appointment or election of its national office-bearers, the names and work addresses of those office-bearers, even if their appointment or election did not result in any changes to its office-bearers ; and

(e) 30 days before a new address for service of documents will take effect, notice of that change of address.”

Fair Work Australia Annual Report 2011 – 2012, Table H6, P 92

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Bilka-Kaufhaus GmbH v Weber von Hartz (1984) C-170/84, [1986] ECR 1607, concerning a

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AG of Belize v Belize Telecom Ltd [2009] UKPC 10

AB v CD [2001] IRLR 808. See also, Breen v Amalgamated Engineering Union [1971] 2 QB

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(1977) Cmnd 6706; see also Lord Donovan,

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section 14 and 16 of the LRA.

1972, c.137, s.2; 1983, c.81, s.3; 1988-89, c.42, s.105; 1994, c.47, s.3.

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case of administrative decision, and this presumption may well be negative by the implications of the statute.”

Repealed by companies Act, No. 17 of 1982. Act, No. 17 of 1982 repealed by Act. No. 7 of


Repealed and replaced by the Co-operative Societies Law, No. 5 of 1972

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February 2010.

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K Marx, Report of the General Council to the Fourth Annual Congress (1969) quotes “the

extension of the principle of free trade, which induces between nations such a competition that the interest of the workman is liable to be lost sight of and sacrificed in the fierce international race between capitalists, demands that such [unions] should be still further extended and made international.”

[1950] 2 All ER 1064

Article 2,International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

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December 2009.

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s.3, Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance (Cap.1)

<href=”#cite_ref-Police_Force_Ordinance_p.232_83-0″>a <href=”#cite_ref-Police_Force_Ordinance_p.232_83-1″>b s.53, Police Force Ordinance (Cap.232)

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“AG v. Kong Chung-sing CACC No.261 of 1980”.

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s.17C(1), Immigration Ordinance (Cap.115)

s.17C(2), Immigration Ordinance (Cap.115)

s.17D, Immigration Ordinance (Cap.115)

s.17C(3), Immigration Ordinance (Cap.115)

Schedule 1, Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap. 486)

s.64(7), Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (Cap. 486)

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[1] KD Ewing (ed), The Right to Strike: From the Trade Disputes Act 1906 to a Trade Union Freedom Bill 2006 (Institute for Employment Rights 2006)

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[3] [1950] 2 All ER 1064