1992, Bata workers went on a strike. A newspaper report three months later in
April carried an interesting story – the Bata share prices were going up! Bata had
outsourced production and had managed to stay in the market even though the workers
were on strike. This story seems to repeat with some variations.
Auto Strike from June 25, 2013 highlights not just the point in Bata story but
one more. It was done by a story in Business Line.
Line carried a story ‘Changing nature of Bajaj Auto’s Plants’ on Bajaj Auto
strike on July 3, 2013, rather it was in the context of that strike. The
message in the story was that there is a pattern which emerges in a multi-plant
organisation. A new plant is the cynosure of all eyes as Waluj plant was and
later Chakan plant of Bajaj Auto was and now Pantnagar plant is. New plants are
manned by young workforce who ‘see themselves as engineers’ while old plants
are manned by experienced workforce who is reluctant to resort to strike even
if called on by their counterpart in Chakan.
receives a compliment at the hands of Rajeev Bajaj with a tone of arrogance: ‘Waluj has seen two decades of upheaval but the people there have learnt
their lessons the hard way. Today, it is one of our best plants,” says Rajiv
Bajaj, Managing Director.
The report says the
obvious: “Waluj is now doubling for Chakan and may even assume a greater role
if the strike continues indefinitely.”
The Bajaj Auto story carries
some messages for us.
Firstly, resorting to strike when the production capacity far exceeds the demand
for products is suicidal.
workers’ focus remains on their own employment, the larger focus on ‘commonality
of interests’ which unions are trying to promote remains a distant dream.
all new plants seem to go through a cycle – first being distinctively happy,
then realising that they need to fight for their demands, this is a phase of
friction, and then settling down to being ‘mature’ employees who have ‘learnt
their lessons the hard way’ as Rajiv Bajaj says.
All this sounds like taming of
when I searched ‘elephant taming’ this is what I got on one of the web sites:
To tame an elephant does not mean to dominate an elephant
with physical fear. A skilled mahout uses verbal commands and positive
reinforcement to forge a lifelong bond between themselves and their elephant
The tradition of passing elephant ownership down from one
generation of father to son still occurs in many parts of Laos today.
Ceremonies between young sons and young calves are vital in strengthening the
bonds and trust both will experiences together for the rest of their working lives.
Undoubtedly not a good metaphor, but yet it tells us an
important lesson of building relationships.
Labels: Bajaj Auto, Rajiv Bajaj, Strike