Employees Organisations and Trade Union History of Indian Railways

  • Trade union history of Indian Railways is as old as the labour movement in India. The trade union movement in India had been the child of industrial development.
  • The first employees organization in IR is formed in 1897 under the name of “Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants of India and Burma” in the backdrop of a strike conducted by Guards.

Early Trade Unions in Railway Companies
Many Railway Trade union movements sprang up in different Railways during 1918-21. Important among them were:

  • Tthe Madras and Southern Maratha Railway Employees Union.
  • The Great Indian Peninsular  Railwaymen’s  Union.
  • North Western Railway Employees Union.
  • The Kanchrapara Railway Workers Union.
  • The Bombay-Baroda and Central Indian Railway Company Workers’ union.
  • The East Indian Railway Union
  • Bengal and North Western Railwaymen’s Association.

Employees of the Railway companies joined the Unions. But the Unions were not successful in getting their demands form the companies.

Trade union Act & Industrial Dispute Act

  • A landmark in the history of Indian Trade Union movement, Trade union Act was enacted in 1926, which gave legal recognition to the registered trade unions.
  • In 1947, the Govt. of India had enacted Industrial Dispute Act, to safeguard the interest of the working class..

Recognition of Trade Unions
Chapters XXV of IREM lays down the following conditions for recognition of the Unions.

  • The Unions must be registered under Indian Trade Union Act 1926.
  • It must consist of a distinct class of Railways Employees and must not be formed on the basis of any caste, tribe or religion.
  • All Railway Employees of the same class must be eligible for membership. It should not be sectional.
  • It's membership should not be less than 30% of the total number of non-gazetted staff employed on the Railway concerned.
  • It should not engage in subversive activities.


  • In view of the failure of individual Unions the idea of a Union in the all India level was first mooted in 1921 to strengthen the Railway trade union movement.
  • Consequently All India Railwaymen’s Federation(AIRF) with  the affiliation of the unions at the company level was formed in the year 1925.
  • The federation claimed a membership of 2,00,000 at the time of its establishment. 
  • AIRF has been recognized by Railway Board in 1930.
  • In its early period AIRF has succeeded in ventilating the discontent of Railwaymen to the authorities and settle them amicably through consultation.


  • Consequent to the formation of Indian National Trade Union Congress(INTUC), efforts have been made to form a rival union under its banner. 
  • Thus a new Federation of Railwaymen under the leadership of Congress party has been formed called Indian National Railway Workers’ Federation (INRWF).
  • Rival unions were set up in all Zonal Railways affiliated to INRWF.
  • It was recognized by the Railway Board in 1948 itself.

Merger of AIRF and INRWF

  • In 1953, after long consultations,  AIRF and INRWF merged and a new Federation called National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) has been formed. But in 1956 AIRF came out and started functioning separately.

Intra-union rivalry

  • Unions at Railway company level were marked by intra-union rivalry based on personal considerations and this rivalry intensified with the formation of Unions on communal basis.

Trade Union of Non-Gazetted Railway staff



AITUC - 1920

 AIRF – 1922

INTUC - 1947

 INRWF – 1947


 NFIR - 1953 (AIRF + INRWF)



Trade Unions of Gazetted Officers

  • All India Officers Federation.
  • Indian Railway Promotee Officers Association

Unrecognised Unions

  • There is a large number of unrecognised Unions and Associations functioning in Railways.
  • Majority of these are Sectional Unions functioning on individual Railway catering to the needs of a particular section of employees.
  • Whenever representations are received from unrecognised unions they are given due to consideration and appropriate action, as deemed necessary has to be taken.
  • However it is the policy of the administration neither to enter into correspondence nor negotiate with these unions.



Tue, 25/12/2012 - 19:46

Respected sir..i have applied for largess 1900 grade pay in january 2011...my father is a points man in kadapa..upto now  the recruitment process didnt started in guntakal division..i dont understand why the process is not started yet...my father and me all eligibilities as considered by railway board..pls somebody reply me to chinnatarun@yahoo.com...many of unemployees are suffering as they resigned that they can get their father railway job...even they didnot know how to proceed and whom to ask..plz plz plz give reply somebody....