View Full Version : Jayaben Desai, Grunwicks Strike Leader Dies, Aged 77

C. Flower
28-12-2010, 09:15 PM

Thanks to electionlit, on the CLR, for bringing to my notice the death of Jayaben Desai in London.

The Grunwicks strike, for Trade Union rights, which Desai led, lasted from 1976-78 and was ultimately sold out by the TUC.

People who casually leave Unions, or don't join them, are often unaware of the extreme difficulty and sacrifice involved in establishing rights to have a unionised workplace.


Jayaben Desai, the Asian trade unionist whose bold leadership of the Grunwick dispute in the late 1970s produced a landmark in industrial relations, has died aged 77.

Desai led a walkout of the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories in the summer of 1976 in an attempt to convince managers to recognise a unionised workforce.

One of the disputes that triggered the walkout involved a 19-year-old male employee, but Grunwick became known for the way in which predominantly Asian and female workers stood up to their employers. The dispute by the women who became known in the press as "strikers in saris" lasted more than two years, and Desai's defiant campaign gained national recognition.

After storming out of the processing plants in north London, Desai and her co-workers joined the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff (Apex). However they were joined on picket lines by workers from across the labour movement, who coalesced around the Grunwick dispute in solidarity.

As momentum built, there were frequent confrontations between hundreds of trade unionists and police.

Desai's attempt to achieve union recognition for the Grunwick workers was ultimately unsuccessful, ending in a hunger strike outside the headquarters of the Trades Union Congress, which she accused of betrayal, in 1978.


Kid Ryder
28-12-2010, 10:41 PM
A very brave and principled working-class woman, who fought harder and longer than those pretending to represent her in the labour movement. My sympathies to her family and friends. Her fight for workplace democracy will be remembered in the difficult years to come, and will inspire future generations of men and women to stand up for their rights and their class interest.