The Development of Asian Unionism
The interaction of politics and trades unionism within Asia was no less important than similar interactions in Africa. To some degree, Asian unionism found it had to confront the same impediments as those which were so debilitating to Africa. Asia, too, suffered from a lack of a large urban industrial mass during the early stages of its development. Rural agriculture and peasant culture were the main attributes of the labour force. It was often employed on foreign-owned plantations. The national political scene was dominated by a colonial presence or foreign occupation which bought forth a nationalist movement with whom the unions became linked. Also true was the strategic role of the interaction between indigenous unionism and overseas unionists keenly interested in the political configurations being shaped by the trades union and the political party in the Asian nation. As in Africa, the leadership of the trades unions and political parties tended to merge and overlap, with the unions frequently providing a stepping-stone for ambitious leaders to move into national political prominence. Also, as in Africa, ethnicity and caste played an important role in the career opportunities for unionists. Union office required literacy, familiarity with the colonial language and discretionary time. This dependence on an intellectual or social elite for the leadership of the union movements is a prime characteristic of Asian unionism; especially in the case of Sri Lanka or in the Phillipines where most of the union business is conducted by union lawyers.
KeywordsTrade Union Collective Bargaining Communist Party National Centre Labour Movement
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