There are three news reports about strikes. When read
individually, those may sound as very routine stories, but when read together
they present a terrible picture of our society.
The first story is of Meru. They have done pioneering work
in establishing Radio Taxis in India. The drivers enter into a contract with
Meru and it is a contract for service and not contract of service. There is
actually nothing new which Meru has done. Such Radio taxis exist almost all
over the world and all follow similar if not same contracting with drivers.
This means that Meru is not the employer of the drivers. The
drivers are actually ‘contractors.’ As a consequence, the drivers are not
workmen and do not enjoy protection of the Industrial Disputes Act. But given
the psyche of drivers who are usually not well read, they cannot see anything
else than an employer-employee relationship. The political leaders however
understand the difference. And certainly the foreign educated son of Narayan
Rane who leads Swabhiman understands this aspect. But they have a vested
interest in fomenting trouble for political gains. Most of the drivers are not
locals, they belong to the North belt and so out went MNS and Shiv Sena unions
which had organised the drivers earlier under their unions. Nitesh Rane is
cleverly recognised this opportunity to build a political base.
And adding fuel to the fire is the MMRTA or Mumbai
Metropolitan Region Transport Authority which is notorious for not deciding the
Auto-Taxi fares quickly after any price rise. This invariably leads to strikes
which Mumbaikars have got used to. Whether they are accountable and to whom is
another story, but it is a story of simple neglect and dereliction of duty.
Since they have not revised the fares, one would have expected that Swabhiman
would take up the issue with MMRTA. But no! This is what the new report says....
K K Tiwari, president
of the Swabhiman Taxi Rickshaw Union, said: "Drivers have to pay a fee to
Meru every day. Either the fare be revised by Re 1 per km or the charge levied
by the management be reduced to help the drivers reduce their losses. The strike
will continue till our demands are met."
If Meru discontinues its operations, which I hope they will
not, it will be the insouciance, and vested interests of political ‘leaders’
and the negligence of MMRTA which will have to be blamed.
The second case is that of Air India whose pilots have threatened
to go on strike if their salaries are not paid immediately. Actually many have
not been reporting for duty. The Air India story is too well known. No salary
for three months is a bad situation indeed. Corruption at all levels, not just
in Air India but also including their bosses in New Delhi, complete
mismanagement of merger of the two airlines are factors that have led to this
situation. Who is really responsible? Air India employees presume that the
airline will not be closed down. Given the vested interests that are involved,
and also political considerations, they may be right in their assessment. So
taxpayers will finally pay for the greed of who’s who in Air India and in the
Government of India. Greed, vested interests of political leaders and neglect are
the factors that are bringing down this airline.
Air India plans to have smaller companies to handle various
operations. This means that many employees will be moved to different companies.
While such a move may be justifiable on commercial grounds the ability of Air
India to manage any change is a big suspect. It will also cause untold worries
and hardship to employees who are already worried about the future. The average
age of Air India is quite high meaning there are many who are in the higher age
groups. Impact on them at this juncture of their life is going to be an
Kingfisher Airlines is a classic story of mismanagement.
This is what Anjuli Bhargava says in her story on Kingfisher “Kingfisher Airlines chairman Vijay Mallya,
of course, pointed to the various negative factors that his airline was battling.
What he seems to ignore is that all these factors apply to the other airlines
as well. Sure, oil prices have risen, but they have risen for all the airlines.
Taxes on air turbine fuel remain an issue, but every other airline in India
pays the same. And foreign direct investment has not happened for any of them.
So, if he finds himself in a unique situation, he has only himself to blame.
Mallya has confused business models — low-fare and full service — time and
again, and he has paid the price for that. He has never had a proper management
team or chief executive in place (and if rumours are true, Sanjay Aggarwal, the
CEO who joined in 2010, will be with Mallya only up to March). Instead of
focusing on making his operations more efficient, Mallya has — without any
compunction — relied on his political clout and influence to convince Indian
banks to bail him out. No matter what he says, it is a bailout that he has got.
No banker in his right mind would agree to fund his unviable and inefficient
company unless it happens to be a government-run bank such as State Bank of
India. Can anyone tell me how much exposure Standard Chartered or HSBC have to
this airline? How come they are not losing sleep over keeping Kingfisher
.....And no one should
look at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for steps such as cancelling
the airline’s scheduled operator permit and so on. In a country like India, he
will be kissing goodbye to his job (and his career) if he starts taking strong,
decisive steps like this. It is not even up for discussion.”
The management practices of Vijay Mallya’s companies are not
written about because he has both - money and power! But his views on managing
a company are gulped down with a smile on face. Greed plays a part there too
and corruption is not a monopoly of the babus in New Delhi. The only smart move
Vijay Mallya is making is not investing in his own airline in spite of having
literally tonnes of money. Captain of a sinking ship goes down with it but not
of an airline – he perhaps will fly higher!
What is happening to the pilots and other staff of
Kingfisher? Many left and joined Indigo. But Indigo has stopped recruitment. So
others have no choice but to wait for their luck to favour them. And some pilots have threatened to go on a strike. It will not help. There is a big
fall in social status for Kingfisher employees, though the same can not be said of Vijay Mallya.
Greedy, irresponsible people have caused a great damage. MMRTA
and DGCA will not act. Nitesh Rane can hold Mumbaikars to ransom. Mallya is having
a great time, and all Aviation ministers have behaved as if they owned the
airline. And nobody is listening!!