Cheap labour, long hours and working in the foundries:

Many of early migrants, who came to Coventry, came in search of employment opportunities. World War II had left Coventry in need of massive reconstruction and the 1950s and 60s was a period of dramatic change. While there were some South Asians living in Coventry prior to World War II, the majority came afterwards, especially during the fifties. They were usually young men, some single and some married with families to support back home. Many of the men interviewed for this project, came here initially for 3-5 years to earn some money but ultimately return back home. But as time went by, they remained and families joined them at a later stage. A large number of them worked in the foundries, such as Sterling Metals, Dunlop, Dunns, and Alfred Herberts, a minority who were better qualified managed to get “cleaner” jobs.

The men, who worked in the foundries, recollect stories of long hours with low wages, often taking on jobs, which no one else wanted to do. These were low-skilled jobs and required basic understanding of the English language. Organisations like the Indian Workers Association, established in Coventry in 1938, were able to assist the Indian workers. They provided colleagues who were proficient in English and were familiar with the system in this country to overcome any problems they encountered.

There is a picture of two men in a pub which apart from being a great picture also illustrates how these men spent some of their spare time. Quickly getting familiar with the English pubs.

The following are some of the experiences of the early South Asian migrants working in the Coventry in the 1950s and 1960s:

Anis Jamall came to Coventry in 1958

In those days, you worked 50 hours, maybe more. If they gave you overtime, they were doing you a favour. If you didn’t come in on Sunday thinking you’d worked enough on Saturday and you’d worked the whole week, than that’s a red mark against you.

Well, I had no choice. Everybody had to do it [work long hours]. At that time I felt like going back home. For the first few years, it was hard and then gradually… It was just work and, go home and come back to work. Hard, very hard. [In] 1959 I met a few people and I said I’m only here for a couple of years then I’m going back, those couple of years became so many years! Anis Jamall came to Coventry in 1958


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