The Paradoxes of Social Partnership and Union Revival in India

Vidu Badigannavar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


After the adoption of economic reforms, trade unions in India find themselves excluded from the political processes and institutions that shape labour market policies of the state. Equally, the exigencies of global capitalism have as some argue weakened the collective bargaining power of trade unions. In this context, trade unions are being urged by policy analysts and academics alike to engage in cooperative relationship with employers. It is suggested that labour-management cooperation or social partnership will offer Indian trade unions a route to revive their fortunes. Using survey data from workplace trade union representatives of one of the largest national union federations in India, namely the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), this paper examines whether the policy prescription of social partnership has any merits for trade union revival. Findings indicate that despite a favourable legislative framework that may support enterprise-level social partnership, the ground realities of workplace industrial relations characterized by increasing employer hostility towards unions render social partnership an ineffective route for trade union revival. These findings are discussed within the context of judicial interventions in employment law and political affiliations of trade unions. This paper suggests union mobilization as an alternative strategy to social partnership for union revival.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Perspectives on Work and Employment in Globalizing India
EditorsE Noronha, P D'Cruz
Place of PublicationIndia
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-3491-6
ISBN (Print)978-981-10-3490-9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Political parties
  • Social partnership
  • Trade union revival


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