Royal Commission on Labour in India: Report(1929)||
The main problem in connection with dock labour is that of minimising the hardships due to unemployment or under-employment. The unemployed may not appear, as in the West, at " calling-on-stands ", but they are to be found in their lodgings, in the streets or at the dock gates seeking employment. In Karachi, we were informed that the depressed condition of the export trade, which fell from 2, 070, 000 tons in 1924-25 to 661, 000 tons in 1928-29, has led to general retrenchment in office and labour staffs. Labourers complained that they were unable to secure adequate employment to maintain themselves and their families, and this was confirmed by evidence that wharf labourers were employed for only about 10 to 12 days in a month. In Rangoon also there has been serious unemployment. More than half the export from this port consists of rice. We have been supplied with a statement showing that, while average monthly exports during 1929 amounted to 306, 000 tons, the tonnage in March was 438, 000 and in November 240, 000 only. Imports also fluctuated in 1929 between 100, 000 tons in March and 175, 000 tons in October. The representative of stevedoring firms in Rangoon stated that. in the busy season from February to April, men work seven days a week, but over the year the average would not be more than 12 or 13 days in the month. The British India Steam Navigation Company, who have on their books 90 gang maistries, estimate the average number of shifts worked by each of these men at II a month, but we have no information as to the extent to which the personnel of the gang varies, and this obviously affects the amount of employment obtained by individual members. The position has been complicated by the recent arrangement to employ Burmans on a fifty-fifty basis with Indians who, until June 1930, were alone employed on the docks. No detailed figures were received regarding the position at other ports, but we believe that there also problems of unemployment and under-employment require attention. So far no attempt has been made to decasualise dock labour. The tendency has been rather to distribute employment among increasing numbers, with the result that the average earnings of the workers have diminished without any reduction in wage rates.