People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 18, 2007



Jute Mill Strike In Defence Of Rights Earned Through Struggle


MORE than 2.5 lakh mill workers of 48 jute mills in Bengal have struck work since January 5 of this year all over the state. The strike is being held under the aegis of a united movement of all trade unions working amongst jute mill workers. Bengal CITU has resolved to express solidarity to the striking workers by holding a solidarity day across Bengal. 


The basic and principal reason why the jute mill strike in Bengal has continued apace has to be found in the intransigence of the mill management. On issues about which threadbare discussions have been held in bilateral and multilateral meetings involving among others the state government, the TUs and the management, the following stand out as examples of the calculated back-tracking indulged in by the mill management.


The management says that it is unable to pay dearness allowance (DA) that has fallen due pointing to a lack of funds. The TUs have pointed out that when jute bales are sold to the union government, the price includes conversion costs, additional DA, wage, PF, and gratuity. The union government on its part would not notice that the management was not paying the due DA to the mill workers.


The management points out that the resistance of TUs had prevented them from putting into place production-based wages, but they are not able to show examples where the TU has behaved in an irresponsible manner. Even in the five jute mills where production-based wage system has been started, the workers are not given DA.


The management, as represented by their organisation the IJMA, says that workers are not willing or able to keep up production. This is a travesty of truth as the gross annual production of jute bales now stands at no less than 16 lakh tons. However it has also to be pointed out that from 1986 the number of spinning spindles and looms have not increased in any appreciable manner, decreasing in number in case of the looms. If one takes the figure in terms of actual number of spindles and looms operative, the gross annual production figure is something that has to be attributed to the skill and zeal of the workers.


Year Spinning spindles Looms



Spinning spindles








In operation 2006-07







It is also a lie that the wage of jute mill workers in Bengal is higher than that in the rest of the country. In fact, the overwhelming number of jute mill hands work for a pittance in Bengal under private management. Just over 35 per cent of the workers are afforded the level of wages agreed upon by the management in 2002. The freeze on DA being indulged in by the management is based on wrong premise and has been rejected by the TUs. 


The selling price of both jute gunny bags and hessian has gone up.



Gunny bags (per ton)

Hessian (per ton)


Rs 25,000 (average)

Rs 29,000 (average)


Rs 30,000 (average)

Rs 38,000 (average)


The union government has the last word for jute mills as per the premise established at the National Jute Board. In a situation where 80 per cent of gunny bags and hessian produced is purchased by the union government, it is surprising that the union government and its agencies are not willing to create pressure on the management of jute mills to forsake their anti-worker ploys and abide by the agreements that they themselves had signed. Until this happens, the jute mill workers have no other way to register their protest but to continue with a state-wide strike action. (BP)