The strike at Maruti’s Manesar plant brought forth many
issues. One of them is recognition of unions.
This issue is particularly a sore point with many MNCs who
are accustomed to a different work culture. The laws in India and USA are not
the same in the Industrial Relations area. Many Indian managers working for
MNCs [who operate in India] find it difficult to convince their bosses abroad
that the situation is very different in India. It is a fundamental right of
employees to organise under the banner of a union.
When the pressure mounts from the HQ, the local managers
start appeasement policies which are very damaging in the long run and do not
serve the purpose of keeping the unions away.
One of the tactics practised is to have a works committee
which works as a substitute to unions. This also does not work in the long run.
A renowned industrial house tried organising workers in four
‘houses’ like it is done in schools. This is an interesting concept. The
underlying belief is that there is a need to organise for the employees and it
needs to be met. So why not provide a structure? Interesting, but is it an effective substitute for a union? It all depends on how sensitively this novel concept is practised.
The real threat that managers feel, with a union at the door step, is of losing ability to
influence their employees. If the processes are created around reaching
employees then the need for unions may be obviated to some extent, at least in a
small set up. My experience is that many organisations begin the exercise of 'reaching out' to employees after receiving a letter from union.
Perhaps their worry is not baseless; I feel it is rooted in reality to some extent. The alarming number of political leaders who
enter the industrial relations scene for personal gains and create conflict situations
is quite worrisome. Some of the news reports on Maruti episode also covered
Here is a report
on the Moneycontrol’s website in the matter
of Maruti strike:
Shop No 19 is a dark, dingy cubby-hole near
Gaushala market on Mata Road in the heart of Gurgaon, the capital s gleaming
satellite city that is home to the plush offices of Indian and foreign
multinational corporations and luxury gated communities that house the
executives working in them. A table stacked with papers and files hides two
chairs behind it. Three walls of the room are pockmarked by peeling plaster and
the fourth is covered by a huge photo poster of police trying to disperse a
crowd with lathis. Beneath the photo is a slogan in Hindi that loosely
translates to Let s come together to
make this bandh successful . It is the Gurgaon headquarters of the All-India
Trade Union Congress (AITUC), India s most powerful trade union.
Anil Kumar, the dark, burly general secretary
of AITUC, Gurgaon, is dressed in a frayed white shirt with the first two
buttons off, black trousers and no footwear. He speaks with a strong Haryanvi
accent and spends most of his time at Shop No 19 as he doesn’t t really have a
job. Kumar has a criminal case against him. A few years ago, he was accused by
the Haryana police of killing a worker during the Rico Auto labour strike. He
says he didn’t do it. As things turn out, a 13-day labour strike at Maruti
Suzuki s Manesar plant has made Kumar an important man.
Between June 4, when the strike started, and
the night of June 16, when it was officially called off, Kumar and his comrades
at AITUC also provided the muscle power and rallied support from workers in
other companies. Ask him the reason behind the strike and he answers almost
half asleep (he says he hasn’t t slept for days), the labour department of Haryana is working
together with the manufacturers to stop workers from forming a union.
Just as the industry needs HR managers who have the skills of dealing
with unions and also have the ability to convince the employers to adopt practices
that respect the rights of parties under the local laws, the unions also need
responsible leaders who have credibility and who focus on workers’ interests
rather than the political parties’. Moreover they too need to respect rights
Take a look at what demand Pratap Sarnaik, local MLA in Thane,
Maharashtra, is making on a school run by Singhanias which allowed some
concessions to Raymond’s employees. The employees are no longer in service because
they have retired under VRS. Sarnaik is deliberately ignoring that certain
concessions come to employees by virtue of their being employed. When the
employment ceases, the concessions which were available as employees also cannot be claimed. Sarnaik intends to
settle the issue by threat of violence. Unfortunately political interests override
considerations of institutions’ rights under laws; and no political party can
claim clean record in that count.
In final analysis, people who can respond responsibly are required on both the sides of the table. Responsibility, Osho says, is the ability to provide appropriate response. [And it just does not apply to management and unions, it applies equally to the Government! Not stepping in to stop nonsense on industrial relations matter is abdication of responsibilities.]
Read the full story of Raymonds here
Labels: Industrial relations, Maruti Suzuki Strike, MNC HR Policies, Responsible Unions