A hundred years ago | June 4, 1918. Archives

Madras Labour Union.

A meeting of the mill hands and labourers held at Perambore Barracks on the 1st instant was attended by over three thousand persons. Dewan Bahadur Kesava Pillai, Messrs. S. Gurusawmy Chetti, B.A. B.L., and Kalayanasundara Mudaliar, Vice-Presidents; Mr. Vedachala Mudaliar and several others were present. Mr. Kesava Pillai was voted to the chair. Mr. Pillai delivered a long and lucid speech in Tamil extending over an hour, in the course of which he narrated the circumstances that brought about the existence of the union which has now [on] its rolls more than 1,600 members. It was due to their own desire to have an organization to cultivate a sense of fellowship and brotherhood and to safeguard their interests. He pointed out that the complaints of the mill-hands were less in the Perambore mills than in the Choolai mill which is under the Indian management. The prices having risen abnormally, their complaint of inadequate wages, fixed long ago was but just, which should engage the attention of the companies, and meet with prompt and sympathetic response. When the companies were known to be making huge profits and declaring large dividends it was their duty to see that their welking men were paid proper wages to get stomachful of food for themselves and their wives and children. Half fed working men could not be so efficient as properly fed and contended men; they had heard of the associatives of mill-hands in Bombay, Ahmedabad, and other places and very rightly asked to be helped to form themselves into associations to promote their own welfare. They had no politics except the politics of saving themselves and their families from half starvation, and the effects of overwork and ill-feeding. He made references to the alleged alarm of the mill owners, which might be honestly held and apprehensions of the Government based on baseless reports and exhorted the will hands to give an undertaking that during the pendency of the trouble, they would co-operate with their employees in turning materials useful for the war, and never think of obtaining redress by resorting to strikes.

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