Jayaben Desai

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Jayaben Desai
Born (1933-04-02)April 2, 1933
Gujarat, India
Died December 23, 2010(2010-12-23) (aged 77)
Nationality British
Ethnicity Indian
Known for trade unionism

Jayaben Desai (2 April 1933 – 23 December 2010) was a prominent leader of the strikers in the Grunwick dispute in London in 1976.[1]

Born in Gujarat, India, Desai moved to Tanzania in 1965, but was then expelled and arrived in Britain, where she took up low-paid work, first as a sewing machinist, then processing film in the Grunwick factory.[1] She resigned after being ordered to work overtime, and instigated a strike among the mainly Asian and female workforce. The strikers protested about working conditions, pay inequality and institutionalised racism within the company.[2]

Desai led the strikers in their epic two-year picket from 1976 to 1978. She had a colourful way with words, for example her parting shot to the boss when she led the walkout: "What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr. Manager." [3]

Mrs Desai (as she was always referred to) recorded her thoughts for the Brent Museum archives. In an interview by Hannah Phung of Brent Museum she said: "It was amazing, let me tell you, it was amazing.[…] tears were in my eyes to see these people […] they were hurting themselves and the police were charging them with horses and everything and still they were standing strong."


  1. ^ a b Dromey, Jack (28 December 2010). "Jayaben Desai obituary". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-03. 
  2. ^ http://www.movinghere.org.uk/galleries/histories/asian/politics/grunwick.htm Jeyaben Desai part in the Grunwick Dispute
  3. ^ "Jayaben Desai Biography at The Institute of Race Relations". 

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