Thursday, March 5, 2009

Teaching trade unionism

Considering that Madras was born of a desire for cheap 'cloathe', it should not be a surprise that the first ever trade union in India was the Madras Textile Labour Union, formed in 1918. Within a very short time, the trade union movement gained popularity and several unions were formed, both in Madras and in other Presidency towns. In 1923, Madras was the venue for the country's first ever May Day Rally, presided over by Comrade Singaravelar, one of the pioneers of the labour movement. There were some firebrand union leaders who came out of Madras, including a certain R.Venkataraman, who went on to become a Union Minister and later the President of India.

The ardour cooled off in the late 1970s, after a rather violent strike by the Simpson and Group Company in 1971. Militant labour went west and the recent history of militant Indian trade unionism is more about Datta Samant and Rajan Nair in Bombay and Pune. Madras became a more peaceable industrial zone, though there were several instances of localised violence. For the past couple of decades, though, there haven't been any really bad spells of industrial unrest.

Is it possible that this institute, set up by the State Bank of India Officers' Association to offer programs on 'Trade Union Effectiveness' has something to do with the more aware union activists in this part of the country?


Lowell said...

Fascinating bit of history. Thank you. The building almost looks unused.

Shantaram said...

@ Jacob: Don't get taken in by that! That's the normal appearance of a building in George Town!!