The nature and extent of Employer-Employee relations in public services depend vastly on the nature of Employee Associations. The harmony or hostility of these relations rests largely upon the strength or weakness, and the philosophy of unionism among the employees. Public-Employee relations are also governed by the changing nature of the public employer, and its dictatorial or democratic attitude in solving mutual problems.
A basic question that needs examination is why employees form and join associations. In answer to this question, it is usually said that employees form their associations and unions for satisfying their interests and desires, i.e. their objectives and goals through creative relations among themselves as well as through organized relations vis-a-vis the employers or their superior officer or boss. These objectives are many and varied. An old Sanskrit proverb says that in this age of ours, strength lies in organization. This is particularly true for those who earn their livelihood by service under a private employer or the State. To form associations or organizations or unions are a natural way for employees for safeguarding their interests. Employee associations or unions have become vital parts of contemporary personnel administration.
As Pijors and Myers observe “Unionism springs from the basic aspirations of those employees who become convinced that they can gain more through membership in a union than by going at it alone.”
Membership in a trade Union is encouraged on the ground that representative associations not only promote good staff relations but also are essential for effective negotiations on the conditions of service. Employee associations are faithful representatives of the society from which they emerge. These associations are essential instruments for improving the welfare of their member employees who are working in the organization. These employee associations foster the growth of cooperation and group consciousness among their members. By belonging to one of these, an employee feels an expansion of his personality and a heightening of his morale. Through these associations, the employees secure better service security, liberty, better conditions of work, and courage. They believe in the motto “Union is Strength”. In almost all countries, employers accept the right of the employees to form their associations or unions. In many organizations, regular meetings with employee unions/associations are held for sorting out problems as well as for using them as channels of communication.
Before analyzing the growth and objectives of employee associations, we must note that there are two popular types of employee associations that are in operation in contemporary times. These are-
(1) Professional Associations- Professional Associations are those organizations that bring members of the same profession together for the exchange of information and experience and for the advancement of their profession. These associations are formed by the higher categories of government employees such as administrative officers, executive officers, professionals, technocrats, scientists, and educationists.
(2) Trade Unions- Trade Unions on the other hand are generally formed by the employees of subordinate public services. Their objective is to seek to improve the wages, salaries, and other conditions of service of their members. If their demands are not conceded, they do not hesitate to resort to strikes and other means of direct action like gheraos, bandhs, hunger strikes, etc.