ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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From 50 Years Ago: More than Prestige

Vol V, No 2 JANUARY 10, 1970

More than Prestige

The 48-day strike of 35,000 workers of engineering units at Jamshedpur has drawn strong condemnation from J R D Tata. This is understandable since in JRD’s view the long drawn-out strike has tarnished the Tata image as an employer. But it needs to be questioned whether JRD’s contention that no labour disputes or demands were involved in the strike which, according to him, was solely the result of inter-group rivalries among workers, is factually correct.

That wages had become an explosive issue in the engineering industry had been amply clear for a long time. The Wage Board for the industry had, after over four years of deliberations, failed to arrive at unanimous recommendations. And the Union Labour Ministry, after several infructuous efforts to sort out matters, had been compelled to pass the buck to the States. In Calcutta an industrywise strike had forced employers to concede a monthly minimum wage which was more than Rs 30 higher than what the employers’ spokesmen had offered during the Wage Board discussions. Several months had elapsed after the settlement in Calcutta and yet employers at Jamshedpur had done little to seek a negotiated settlement of wages with workers. Eventually, the State Government had to intervene...

That the element of inter group rivalries among workers also played a part in the Jamshedpur strike need not be disputed. No major industrial dispute in our country is wholly free of this element. Yet, it is  inconceivable that 35,000 workers could be made to stay away from work for 48 days — virtually without the occurrence of any violence — solely out of inter-group rivalries. Indeed, the peaceful and orderly conduct of the strike itself underlines the fact that whatever inter-group rivalries exist among Jamshedpur engineering labour, these were successfully kept aside for the duration of the strike.

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