The Labour Monthly


Trade Unionism and Labour Conditions

Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 2 January, 1922 No. 1
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The Indian Trades Union Congress met at Jharria on December 1-6; it was attended by an audience of about 20,000. The tenor of the Congress was more political than Labour, and unanimous resolutions were adopted for Swaraj (home rule) and Swadeshi (use of home manufactures) without which the workers could not be liberated from their present subjection and exploitation.

At the last session of the Indian Legislative Assembly, a resolution, tabled by Mr. Joshi, helps to illustrate the condition of servitude in which Indian workers still are, despite the attempt at organisation begun by the Trades Union Congress. This resolution contained the demand for the repeal of the Workmen’s Breach of Contract Act, and the removal from the Indian Penal Code of sections 490 and 492, which permit imprisonment for certain breaches of contract. Under the Breach of Contract Act a worker who fails to fulfil his contract of service, having received an advance of money from his employer, is liable to be called on to repay the advance or fulfil his contract, failing which he can be imprisoned. This law was passed shortly after the Indian Mutiny, and embodies in fact the chief feature of indentured labour. The Assembly, after much debate, agreed that there was a strong case for the repeal of these laws, and consented to introduce legislation to that effect if, after consulting the Local Governments, the majority favoured repeal.

In the near future attempts are to be made to introduce measures which will ensure the registration of Trade Unions, the establishment of joint committees on the lines of the Whitley Councils, so as to enable discussion to take place between employers and employees with a view to preventing strikes, and the introduction of legislation to ensure compensation to workers. The English law on this subject will probably be taken as guide.