Karnataka

Even as AITUC turns 100, challenges seem endless

A file photo of an All India Trade Union Congress gathering at Lalbagh in Bengaluru.  

The country’s first national trade union, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), turns 100 on Saturday. The State unit of the union will mark the day with an event in Bengaluru, reflecting on the past as well as the daunting task the unions face in bringing together workers in the post-liberalisation era.

It was in 1942, more than two decades after 64 unions came together to form the AITUC in 1920 at Mumbai, that the union organised the working class in textile mills of Bengaluru, mines in Hutti and Kolar, besides beedi and tiles industries. Once home to over a lakh public sector workers, Bengaluru’s industrial growth has post-1990s been marked by a steep rise in employees in the high-paying IT sector and the garment sector at the other end of the spectrum, posing a challenge to unionisation.

“The real estate boom in the 90s has led to rapid de-industrialisation in the city. PSUs have cut down workforce and emphasis now is on contract and outsourcing. This is the greatest challenge before the working class movement,” said AITUC general secretary (Karnataka) D.A. Vijaybhaskar.

The founding of AITUC itself was part of the workmen struggle to demand a 10-hour working day and dearness allowance that brought together a wide spectrum of workers. Freedom fighters Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai were instrumental in forming the union. The first Congress of AITUC was held on October 31, 1920, by which time Tilak had died. Rai presided over the congress of AITUC at Empire Theatre in Bombay. The success of the Quit India movement in 1942 depended on the participation of textile mill workers.

In post-Independent India, establishment of major public sector industries led to the emergence of powerful unions in Bengaluru. “On the back of a string of struggles, M.C. Narasimhan was elected to the Mysore State Assembly from KGF in 1957. In subsequent years, trade union leader such as M.S. Krishnan and B.V. Kakkilayya were elected,” said Mr. Vijaybhaskar.

When the industrial workers in Bengaluru were part of the struggles in the 1970s and 1980s, more than one lakh PSU workers took part, and in one instance workers went on strike for three months, AITUC (Karnataka) vice-president M.D. Harigovind recalled.

As the contour of industrial relations have changed in the current times when several labour rights won through decades of struggle have been diluted, AITUC will focuse on organising workers from the informal sector, Mr. Vijaybhaskar said.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 3:19:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/even-as-aituc-turns-100-challenges-seem-endless/article32985882.ece

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