Arvind Shrouti of Option
Positive, the advisor to 100+ unions in the Pune – Chinchwad belt invited me to
join a very novel project. If it is not the only one o fits kind, it is surely
one of the rare projects in India.
Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana
decided to shape its and its members’ future proactively. It invited Arvind
Shrouti to help its members define it and prepare plans for future.
Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana [VKKS
for brevity] has a very interesting history. Bajaj Auto closed down its Akurdi
plant on 29th Aug 2007 abruptly. The intention was to move
production to Uttaranchal plant which offered advantages in terms of labour
cost and financial benefits. Shiv Sena union seems to have helped Bajaj in this
closure. VKKS stepped in and got the Shiv Sena union derecognised, and fought
lone battle against Bajaj Auto. Finally a settlement was arrived at. Broadly
speaking, as per the new terms of contract, each worker was to be paid upfront
Rs 5.75 lakh in cash in hand and the remaining Rs 12 lakh would be paid in
monthly instalments of Rs 10,000 for the next 10 years.
VKKS then organised the workers
at the Chakan Plant of Bajaj Auto. This history is important. The immediate
concern of its members appears to be how to protect them from a possible loss
of job in future. They are aware that the vicissitudes of economy can hit them
before they are ready for it. Their long term vision is a reflection of their
desire to keep happiness and wellness, not just physical wellness but
psychological too, as priorities, while preparing for future shocks, if any.
And they are aware that unions have earned a bad name in recent times, they
want it to have a positive image for their union.
The one day workshop generated a lot
of ideas and enthusiasm. It was preceded with some work on delegates working in
groups, preparing collage to convey their dreams with pictures. Interesting thoughts
had gone behind making collage. Emerging strongly were concerns of children’s
education, social security and empowerment of women. They showed heightened
social awareness stating that they must play a part in preventing female
infanticide! One group emphasised the need to listen actively, while another
group emphasised the need to make their union vice-free. One delegate narrated
how he had helped an employee to give up the habit of chewing tobacco [I saw
his sms to this delegate thanking him for it!]. A lot of new thoughts and a
renewed dedication to take charge of their own lives - this is what made this
event so energising.
livelihood is everybody’s goal, it should be. It means having enough money to
provide for oneself and family and ‘acceptance of his sense of worth.’ If
deliberations are any indication, VKKS delegates are undoubtedly marching in
I was fortunate to be a part of
this endeavour. I wish them success.
Alvin Toffler said, “For the
first time in human history, virtue is a condition of effective work.” Yes,
people are listening Mr Toffler.
PS: The photographs show Arvind
Shrouti leading the discussion and the delegates involved in a group exercise.