The Labour Movement in the Global South
Trade Unions in Sri Lanka
Routledge – 2011 – 214 pages
Based on extensive original research, this book examines the challenges confronting trade unions in the global South, by focusing on trade union struggles in Sri Lanka under neo-liberal globalisation. It centres on movement politics of unions; explains union capacities to mobilise workers as a part of broad counter movement; and specifies worker struggles in Sri Lanka.
The author identifies key dimensions of variation in the approaches taken by oppositional groupings, in particular unions, other labour organisations and the labour movement, and locates those variations in a larger theoretical context. Three case studies on trade unions in tea plantations, garment factories and among the nurses show how these theoretical dimensions operate in practice, and the consequences for the sort of opposition that is (and is not) created. The book contributes to the on-going debate on social movement unionism, and it also reveals their gaps in terms of addressing how class injustices are mediated through ethno-nationalist projects reproducing ethnic and gender hierarchies. It acknowledges the diversity of experiences and forms of resistance in the global South and critically engages with issues of gender, ethnicity and labour internationalism, providing a useful contribution to studies on South Asian Politics as well as Labour and Development Studies.
1. Introduction: Sri Lanka, the Global South and Worker Struggles 2. History of Unions in Sri Lanka: The Colonial State and Political Unionism 3. The Nurses and a Monk: Limits of Economic Unionism 4. Plantation Workers and Anti-Tamil Violence: Struggles of Political Unionism 5. Free Trade Zone Workers and Allianced: Building a Movement Unionism 6. Conclusion: Renewing Movement Politics and Global Labour Solidarity
S. Janaka Biyanwila is a part-time lecturer in Employment Relations at the Business School of the University of Western Australia. His work explores labour relations with particular interests in the global South intertwining issues of development, nationalism, social movements, gender and civil society.