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Evolution of Unionism and Labour Market Structure-Case of Bombay Textile Mills, 1947-1985

Using primary and secondary data this paper shows that the origins of the phenomenon of independent unionism in the Bombay mill industry were embedded in the dynamics of technological transformation within the industry as well as in the struggles of the workers at the mill level over time. The evolution of both the structure of collective negotiations and the structure of textile unionism occurs simultaneously. Thus not only does the bargaining structure result from prior union-management negotiations and varying capital intensities within firms in an industry, but the type of unionism is transformed during these processes. Examining the opposing forces of the law in preserving the status quo in the form of the BIR Act and the role of the 1982 strike in breaking down the state-imposed industry-wide bargaining structure in the industry, it is observed that the strike was partially successful.

Politics and Organisations of Urban Workers

The working class is an apparently privileged section. It has sained a more or less secure entry into the mainstream of economy, the sphere of organised production. In a society characterised by unemployment, poverty, scarcity and deprivation even wage slavery can be considered a privilege.

LABOUR-Minimum Wages for Industrial Workers

It was in 1946 that Bombay textile workers won the right to a minimum wage for the whole industry, a wage that was supposed to be related to the needs of a worker (rather, of the worker's family) and not to the capitalists so-called capacity to pay. The 1946 Award based the minimum wage on the diet recommendation of Dr Aykroyd, the then Director of the Nutrition Research Laboratories at Coonoor, which laid down a minimum daily intake of 2.600 calorics for an adult working six hours in India. Even at that time this recommendation was regarded as being too low. Given that (he League of Nations Nutrition Commission had recommended 2,400 calories the energy requirement for basic diet (i e, without work) for workers in temperate countries and 75 calories per hour of moderate work, 3,000 calories would be the requirement for eight hours of moderate work.

MAHARASHTRA-The Textile Worker in the Village

"First tell us why you're here — have you only come to tell us Datta Samant is power-hungry and that we should go back to work?" Textile workers, now back in their village homes three months into the longest strike in their history, are at first suspicious. From the beginning they have heard from their more well-known village leaders only anti-strike propaganda — workers are well off anyway and are causing damage to the nation by demanding too much, etc, etc. But once they find out that these visitors, organisers with agricultural labourers and toiling peasants in a nearby village, are different, are supporters of their strike, have been distributing pamphlets showing this support, their mood changes. A lamp is brought, friends are called, a meeting is held in a small temple in this poor peasant section of a prosperous and merchant dominated village in the foothills of the Sahyadris, and the process of organising the textile workers in Shiralapeth taluka of Sangli district has begun.

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

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.

Textile Bonus War

The sudden sparking off of what has been described as the Bonus War in the Bombay cotton textile industry took by surprise not only the management but also th e INTUC-affiliated Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh which is the representative union of textile workers in Bombay under the law.

Textile Wage Accord

The significance of the recent agreement between the Millowners' Association, Bombay, and the representative trade union of the cotton textile workers in the City lies not so much in the additional benefits accruing to the workers under it as in the fact that through it, the authority of the Central Wage Board and the Government decision accepting the Boards recommendations, are vindicated.

The Textile Strike in Bombay

What's in a name? Everything, say the millowners, in effect. Bonus cannot be called by any other name. It is not wages which workers can legitimately demand as a matter of right, being an ex-gratia payment made out of profits. Stripped of legal frills, this is the principle for which millowners are fighting.

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