World of Labour


Tinplate Workers’ Strike at Jamshedpur

Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 11, August 1929, No. 8, pp. 509-510, (930 words)
Transcriptionp: 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.

A strike has been in progress at the works of the Tinplate Company of India, Ltd., Golmuri, Jamshedpur, since April 5. The E.C. of the Union presented the following resolutions framed by the E.C. of the Union and embodying the grievances of the workers which were passed at a mass meeting held on January 9, 1928, with about 3,000 workers present:—

(1) Eighteen detailed demands including a general increase of 25 per cent. in wages; system of provident fund, acting allowances, overtime pay, bonus, maternity benefit, half-hour interval for eight hours’ continuous work, all as obtaining in the Tata’s Iron and Steel Works; proper housing accommodation; reduction of foreign supervision; six days’ minimum wage per week; shoes, aprons, &c., to be supplied; and removal of corruption in matter of appointments.

(2) That the Union be recognised by the Company.

(3) That all persons dismissed or suspended since the formation of the Union, especially the eight men suspended for refusing to do menial work, be reinstated.

M. Daud, President of the A.I.T.U.C., speaking at the meeting, counselled moderation and patience and concluded with a warning that if within a reasonable time the Company did not remove the grievances he would advise the workers to start an emergency fund.

The unrest prevailing was intensified when the Company posted notices on January 18 to the effect that the tinplate works would in future only operate at 50 per cent. capacity, and the works would, therefore, finish work on Wednesday each week. This would affect the bar yard, hot mills, foundry roll shop, shear and opening department. The finishing department to work every alternate week and all workers to he paid only for days worked.

At a mass meeting on the 20th, J.N. Mitra, Vice-President of the Tinplate Workers’ Union, stated that:—

The “over-stock propaganda” of the Company was a huge hoax. There was no heavy stock of tin boxes anywhere and normal practice was to keep three months’ consumption as reserve . . . the Company produced 700,000 boxes in 1928 as against 895,000 in 1927, so that granting it ordered 100,000 from South Wales the production of 1928 still fell short.

Negotiations were begun between the Company and M. Daud, to be taken up later by Manek Homi, who had been elected by a unanimous vote as President of the Union. Manek Homi, had been prominent in leading the strike there last year.

At a mass meeting on March 26, Homi announced that a settlement had been arrived at. The Union was to be recognised by the Company; all discharged men were to be reinstated, and as far as practicable full time to be given to the workers. The hot mill workers were to be given an extra 2 annas per day (7 per cent. increase) and the principle underlying the other demands was accepted, to be worked out in detail later on.

Nothing was done by the Company. On April 2 J. Mitra, at a meeting, charged the Company with breach of faith, stating that the wage increase agreed upon had not been paid and all the other items withheld. Also when a mill worker was dismissed and his fellow-workers downed tools, the Company agreed to reinstate him but this was not done, and, disgusted, the hot mill men again downed tools, which led to the dismissal of eight more leaders.

By April 5, 3,000 tinplate workers at Golmuri had struck work. By the 17th the situation took a serious turn. Attempts were being made by the Company to obtain blacklegs, the police escorting them in lorries to the works.

The area surrounding the works was continuously guarded by Gurkha military police. It is alleged that some stones were thrown by the strikers at the blacklegs, which resulted in twelve strikers being arrested.

Orders prohibiting meetings were issued and more military requisitioned; meanwhile the Union intensified picketing arrangements.

On May 13 a statement was issued by the Secretary of the Union enumerating the grievances of the workers, and adding:—

Manek Homi, supported the strike on the second day, but after the twenty-sixth day asked the workers to resume work unconditionally. This somersault on the part of Homi was vehemently resented by the men who rejected his leadership and elected one of their own comrades and worker, J.N. Mitra, as acting president, and are continuing the strike constitutionally.

The Union officials appealed to various leaders to intervene in the dispute. V.V. Giri met the executive and tried to see the management but was refused an interview. He was followed by Jawaharlal Nehru and Diwan Chamanlal. Meanwhile appeals for financial support were sent out supported by Nehru and others. On May 19 M. Daud was authorised by the Union to open up negotiations for settlement on certain minimum demands.

Daud interviewed the management, but was told that the demands were not acceptable and that nearly 2,000 were working at the plant and it would be difficult to dispense with these, but the Company would endeavour to accommodate as many strikers as possible.

That evening, at a mass meeting, when told the “compromise” terms offered, those working decided to join the strikers.

The stubborn attitude of the Company stiffened the strikers and a more intensified picketing was resorted to, and despite the attacks of the Company’s paid touts to prevent the “loyalists” from joining the strike, on June 4, the fifty-eighth day of the strike, those working joined the strikers in a body, and a complete deadlock prevailed. This was the position up to June 18.