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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.


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Unions in India at Critical Crossroads 475


ANIBEL FERUS-COMELO Unions in India at Critical Crossroads 1. Introduction In 1991, the Government of India introduced the New Economic Policies to liberalise and transform the command economy that was in place since India’s independence in 1947 to a market-led economy. Since the onslaught of the economic liberalisation process in India, unions’ attention and energy have been absorbed in resisting attacks in organised workplaces, predominately in the public sector. This defen- sive battle has been accompanied by an unchallenged ascendance of the private sector, fuelled by rising inward foreign investment and the dismantling of employment rights by the state. Unions, which had formerly enjoyed certain privileges in a state-protected system, have been struggling for survival in many ways. At a time when India is attracting much attention on the global stage for its phenomenal rise in economic prowess, the social and political consequences for workers needs to be carefully examined in view of the state of trade unionism in the country. The aim of this chapter is to summarise succinctly the organisational structure, the political culture and the tactics and strategies of the labour movement in India, in order to assess its future prospects. Anibel Ferus-Comelo 476 2. A Brief Overview Early trade unions in India developed at the scale of an entire industry in specific geographical areas, for example, in the textile industry of the cities of Ahmedabad and Mumbai (Bombay), or the jute industry of Calcutta. In contrast, the operation of unions today is at the scale of...

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