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Teaching the Workers A Lesson

As the strike of the two-and-a-half lakh workers of the textile mills of Bombay is about to cross the 150-day mark, a series of developments in the last few days have removed any remaining doubts about the Union government's determination to make no concessions to the striking workers and to defeat the strike. About the beginning of this month there were indications that the Maharashtra government would not be averse to moves to bring about a negotiated settlement of the strike. The state Chief Minister had told journalists in Pune on May 30 that the strike could be settled if all trade unionists came together and evolved a common minimum demand for the workers, taking into account the mills' paying capacity. Three days later he disclosed in Bombay that he was hopeful of a quick end to the strike. He was, he claimed, holding informal talks with several persons connected with the strike.

LABOUR-Bombay Textile Strike What Lies Ahead

The five-month old strike in 60 mills spells out a crisis in the institutional framework of capital-labour relations in the Bombay's cotton textile industry. The persistence of the strike has surprised the employers as well as the government, who expected the strike to fizzle-out in a few weeks.

LABOUR- Bombay Textile Workers Strike-A Different View

The tradition of the textile workers of Bombay sustaining industrywide strikes over very long periods goes back to over half a century. The present strike of these workers in Bombay .shows that, whatever else may have changed, the present generation of textile workers has not lost that capability. 

LABOUR-New Phase in Textile Unionism

Textile unionism has been, like unionism in the railways and coal mines in India, industrial unionism, characterised by long drawn out general strikes. Today, as Bombay textile workers have entered into a seemingly indefinite strike, they do so in the context of fundamental changes which have occurred in the last 20 years in the industry; changes which could transform the nature of textile unionism. From the 1918 general strike, which covered 80 mills and involved one lakh and forty thousand workers, up to the present, Bombay textile workers have launched industrial actions which have drawn together workers from the whole industry. These strikes have thrown up different forms of organisations like the Girni Kamgar Union and the mill committees; which were formed as a result of the general strikes of 1924-25 and the six-month long struggle of 1928. These represented the coalescence of two tendencies

The Datta Samant Phenomenon—II

Before considering Datta Samant's role in the post-Emergency period in detail, it is necessary to look at three factors which helped to shape this period, from within the trade union movement. 

The Datta Samant Phenomenon—I

Datta Samant has been the most talked of, enigmatic and controversial trade union leader in Maharashtra in the past few years. Working class activity in Bombay has come to be equated with the ventures of Datta Samant His involvement in long drawn out struggles, the militant following he commands and the bloody inter-union rivalries he has been associated with provide ideal ingredients for sensational news items. The struggles of the workers in the post-Emergency period in Maharashtra have by and large been portrayed as the struggles of Datta Samant.  

Bombay Communists and the 1924 Textile Strike

The recent publications of many kinds of source material on the beginnings of the Indian communist movement, including hitherto classified intelligence reports, creates the impression that the communist movement in those early days was a very powerful political force. The fact that in 1924, there was both a major strike in the Bombay textile mills and the launching of the Kanpur Conspiracy Case reinforces this impression of a well-organised, secret communist movement posing grave dangers to the government, and both the government and Communist Party leaders, for different reasons, seek to establish a causal relation between the two.

Poor Award for Textile Workers

Everyone was impressed by the award in the Bombay textile labour wage dispute announced on April 13 by the chief minister of Maharashtra and the Union Industries Minister. The media made sure that everyone would be impressed. The award was described as epoch-making, unprecedented, etc. The textile workers, however, were not impressed; they were disappointed. 

Conditions of Bombay's Textile Workers

In recent months several industrialists and economists have been trying to persuade us that organised industrial labour is the new privileged class in the country. Relative to unorganised labour, rural and urban, and given the level of industrial wages, permanence of employment and dearness allowance pegged to the price index, this would seem to be so.

Bonus Movement among Textile Workers

The densely populated textile mills urea of Parel-Lalbaug in Bombay recently witnessed organised expression of workers' discontent on the bonus question. Th e central trade union organisations active among textile workers sensed the signals and bestirred themselves. There was a strike which began on October 15, and continued till October 18. In about 30 mills, the strike was total, and the remaining mills operated only partially.  

May Day with a Difference

The workers of Bombay first observed May Day in 1927 (the first May Day to be observed in India) by going on strike and launching a movement for working class solidarity that proved to be a prelude to the formation of the first well-organised militant trade union in the country, the Girni Kamgar Union, and to the agitation against the Simon Commission in 1928. It also, in a sense, inaugurated the political movement of workers in the country. Things have changed a great deal in Bombay since then.  

 

Millowners to the Rescue?

The success of the agitation against the agreement between the Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh and the Millowners' Association on the introduction of a seven-day week in textile mills in Bombay has exceeded the expectations of its organisers. Certainly, it has dealt another blow to the political fortunes of the Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee president, Rajni Patel, who is also president of the RMMS. After the Congress debacle in the Bombay Municipal Corporation elections in March, the BPCC president and his group have been frantically looking for opportunities to demonstrate their political influence in the city. The agreement over the seven-day week was seized upon with the same end in view.  

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