Trade Union Culture: A Comparison in Light of the Covid-19 Pandemic

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International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume IV, Issue IX, September 2020 | ISSN 2454–6186

 Trade Union Culture: A Comparison in Light of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Sharna Chakraborty
Post-graduate Student, Department of Labour Studies and Social Protection
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati.

IJRISS Call for paper

Abstract: The global pandemic has notoriously put many businesses to a standstill and raised uncertainties among existing employees. With various economies being affected in different ways, some elements remain common, especially for workers employed in precarious or unstable jobs. Workers engaged at the lowest tiers of their organisational structures had to face greater risks.
This paper focuses on the Garment outsourcing and the Animation industries in India and Japan respectively. Trade Unions made the headlines in June, 2020 where members of the Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU) sat in protest as 1200 members of a textile factory in Srirangapatna, Karnataka abruptly lost their jobs in June as H&M reportedly cancelled their orders in light of reduction in consumer demand because of COVID-19. On the other hand, the Anime industry of Japan, one of the backbones of its economy, suffered major losses, causing delay of shows or abrupt stoppage in broadcast. The ones most at risk were animators, among other creators who already work in exploitative conditions given the nature of output in this industry. The freelance animators in Japan do not have a trade union owing to the scattered nature of their jobs. Moreover, the work culture in Japan is a great influence on the minimal functioning and a collective reluctance on part of these animators that they still have not formed a Trade Union at any level nor have discussed their issues widely in mainstream media.
The paper intends to study the above mentioned factors and make a comparative analysis regarding why workers engaged in informal occupations in these two industries which, by nature are very similar; are facing two completely different outcomes.

Keywords: Trade Unions, Work Culture, Garment Industry, Animation, Job loss, Gender, Pandemic.


Trade Unions as organisations have been perceived as the defenders of labour rights. As Richard Hyman puts it, trade unions are always forced to choose among contradictions: whether to prioritize between ensuring short-term solutions or on long-term welfare goals (Gillan & Lambert 2013, 181). This stands true at the face of any uncertainty, previously the Global Economic Crisis of 2008; now the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created uncertainties wherein trade unions around the world have been forced to rethink their roles and act to accommodate for the losses accrued.