One more great institution is now on its death bed!
Let me tell you……In my job as a Welfare Officer I had to organise workers’ education classes. At the end of the class we would go on a study tour.
One of such tours [in 1978 I think] took me and of course the workers attending the class to TLA or Textile Labour Association, at Ahmedabad. It happens to be one of the visits which are etched in memory.
I had not seen any well organised union office till then [and very few existed in those days] and I discovered that TLA was as well organised as any corporate office. It was a multi storeyed building. There was an office for the union’s lawyers where they could advise workers on their grievances and disputes. They had already provided housing to workers. There was a co-operative bank for workers! And I think I saw a huge library too.
And what shocked me was their Annual Report which gave statistics of the number of disputes handled by TLA, showing details of how many were resolved at conciliation stage, bilaterally and through arbitration etc. I had seen many organisations but had never seen a record of grievances being kept and managed so systematically.
The visit ended with a meeting with Mr Arvind Buch who presented the philosophy followed by TLA. For several years thereafter I recommended that all HR Managers must visit TLA. It was eye opener of an experience. Remember that in 1978 the labour scenario in Mumbai was full of violence. People had lost faith in unions [and perhaps in managements alike] that they could do anything worthwhile. It is against this backdrop that the leadership provided by Mahatma Gandhi and later by Buch which led to many path breaking initiatives.
All this is a part of history now! That is really sad!!
TLA remains the representative union of textile workers and like RMMS [Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh] of Mumbai, it is now owes its representative status to an archaic Bombay Industrial Relations Act 1946. Working class was so disillusioned with RMMS before the textile strike that they invited Dr Datta Samant to lead the agitation. A news report says that the working class in Ahmedabad is similarly disillusioned with TLA. The Government may not want to change labour laws to permit exit policy, and retrenchments at will, but they surely can do something to change the outdated laws. [The BIR Act applies to only five or six industries, textile, power generation and transport among them!].
And I quote this shocking report which says it all “There was a time when workers used to wake up or sleep on TLA’s call. But over the past few years, TLA members have used workers to fill their own pockets and take benefits from mill owners by preventing us from going on strike. But the spring has been pressed for too long now.”….Indeed, police have filed several cases against the trade body for siphoning off crores of rupees meant to be compensation for jobless workers of 29 closed textile mills. [unquote]
That is a sad end of a great organisation. With it goes some of the cherished principles and value based leadership in trade union field. And also a role model for unions.
People have lost faith in their leaders and they have lost faith in those who are running institutions of pride. The loss is immeasurable.
Hello, is anybody listening? [Read the newspaper report here]