Jayaben Desai, Inspirational female leader of the Gunwick Strike

14 Jul

Shack Diaries

Jayaben Desai died age 77 in 2010.

She was born in Gujarat, India and later moved to London. Like many other women in the 1970’s, she was employed as cheap labour in a factory, the Grunwick factory.

The workers were allowed no trade union and many were paid very little for working very long hours. In August, 1976, after being asked to do yet more overtime, Jayaben walked out of the factory with her son. Her parting words to her manager were:

‘What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. There are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who will dance on your fingertips. Others are lions who can bite your head off!

We are those lions Mr Manager!’

Soon there were 137 workers from the factory on strike, protesting about conditions and calling for union recognition.

This was the first time a trade…

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