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
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will, but they surely can do something to change the outdated laws.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 [quote] “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.
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.
Labels: Arvind Buch, BIR Act, Industrial relations, RMMS, Textile Labour Association, Workers unrest