I met Thakare almost a year
ago. Pradeep Thakare - not his illustrious namesakes from Bandra. Pradeep
Thakare. After my retirement, I was meeting many people in Pune Industrial belt
to discover the mood and trends in Industrial Relations. Thakare was the ‘union
leader’ at Bosch in Pune, and I was waiting to meet him.
Name and occupation of a
person makes you imagine his appearance even before you meet him. I was expecting
to meet a rather tall, stocky individual as you see those coming from towns
near Pune. Perhaps I expected him to sport handlebar moustaches as do many
from Satara and Sangli.
Nothing of this came true. Entered a-not-so-tall, young
man of slender built wearing a windcheater, to protect him from wind and chill
or perhaps to make a style statement.
Nobody had warned me of the
shock I was then going to receive; it was a pleasant shock!
After exchange of pleasantries
I started introducing myself, but he cut me short. Thakare interrupted me saying
he had seen my web-site and also my profile on LinkedIn. I had not expected
this from him. He was prepared for our meeting, having already organised his
thoughts. 'Being ready and prepared' is the hallmark of Pradeep Thakare, and it gets reflected in his work.
Proactive and unusual steps on
We discussed positive contribution
of Trade Unions. The focus of our discussion shifted to productivity. Thakare told
me an interesting story. He was told by managers at Bosch that they would introduce
MOST [Maynard Operation Sequence Technique], a technique that helps determine
standard time of a given operation, thereby helping in productivity
improvement. Not satisfied with the training they received in the Company,
Thakare and his union committee adopted a very proactive response – They
engaged a consultant to train the union committee on MOST! An unusual response
by a union to a productivity enhancement plan.
[pic shows Thakare explaining his Project Report]
Thakare and his ‘comrades’
decided that they must do something positive to change the image of their
union. They decided to ‘own’ a production line. They got down to the serious
business of improving productivity on their own. They made a project report. [I
have seen the report, it is very well documented information about the
production operations and it identifies areas for action]. The union committee
used many Japanese techniques like Kaizen, Poka-yoke while working on this
project. They realised that more contribution will come by ensuring more run
time [or less downtime] rather than increasing the output rate. Their project
helped them increase the output substantially.
An imaginative scheme: Union
returns membership fee!
Thakare moved ahead of many
unions; he launched schemes for the benefit of worker-members, and the one with
Dena bank takes the cake. He held talks with Dena Bank for a novel scheme. It
took him three years to persuade the Bank to accept it. Thakare was worried
that the union had good funds – they obtained a monthly contribution of Rs 100
per month per member. The corpus grew, and Thakare was aware of the danger
ahead – of mismanagement of funds. Union committees are known, or are tempted,
to utilise the funds for their personal gains. This is a very ‘open secret.’ Thakare
wanted to avoid it, and also ensure that the extra money is returned to
Under Thakare’s leadership the union devised and implemented a novel
scheme with Dena Bank. From the funds raised by membership fee of Rs 100 pm or
Rs 1200 pa, the union buys a personal accident insurance of Rs 5 Lakhs for each
member. After deducting apportioned expenses, the amount is divided equally among
members and a Fixed Deposit is created in the joint names of each member and
the union. This Fixed Deposit is for a period of one year. The interest earned
is compounded each year. The worker-members receive the amount when they leave
the organisation after completing 5 yrs of membership, or on their retirement.
This scheme ensures that the union is left
with very little fund yet just enough to get its work going. This scheme is in
operation for three years already. The workers get unutilised money back and the
union gains the trust of all members!
Ahead of Modi: A house for
And like Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar
Sanghatana [see previous blog-post] Thakare and his union committee have also
launched a housing scheme. The workers will get a flat at a price of Rs 16
lakhs [approx.] while the market rate is Rs 35 lakhs. The first floor of the
building is ready and three more will come up.
I met Keshav Gholve in his
Union office [once again]! He leads the Thermax Kamgar Sanghatana. For those
who have not read my earlier post ‘Industrial Relations – Thermax union way’ on
this union here is the link.
It is, they believe, the first
union to obtain certification under ISO 9000 – 2008. Their record keeping is
simply surprising. They have identified duties of each union office bearer.
The Thermax Union also conducts
‘Workman Satisfaction Survey!’ I feel this may really be the first scored by
the union. They circulate a seven question survey questionnaire to determine
whether or not the workers are satisfied with the work or achievements of the
Many surprising achievements
are to their credit, but this one is unbeatable: The Thermax Kamgar Sanghatana has a ‘Quality
Administration of General Labour Affairs
"We Thermax Kamgar
Sanghatana are enthusiastically involved in the mission of evolving Quality
Management System for Company growth, considering workers interest with good
industrial relations with Owners/ management and workers for better tomorrow.
In our function,
people perceive value of total management and workers satisfaction. Producing ‘Good
Working Environment’ asper Management and worker expectations is ultimate
solution to achieve it.
entire team efforts is to establish Thermax Kamgar Sanghatana as a trusted name
of total solution in administration of general labour affairs in view by
determining and fulfilling workers’ and management requirements."
[The official English
translation provided by the union needs substantial improvement and does not accurately reflect the message of the policy. The original Marathi version is very powerful. See
of these two blog-posts-series suggests that there is a Business Partner role for
Trade Unions which some seem to be adopting. We may think of a partner as ‘a person who
takes part in an undertaking with another or others, especially in a business
or firm with shared risks and profits.’ In an industrial relations context, it will mean both what
a party will do and what they will surely not do, or refrain from doing.
ample evidence of this stance in the stories of Bajaj Auto, Bosch and Thermax
unions. VKKS [Bajaj Auto workers union] says it will never attack the brand, it
will observe self-discipline, or promote multi-skilling. Bosch [Pune] union has
actually undertaken productivity studies very systematically. Thermax union has
a quality policy. The first sentence [not properly translated in the official
English version, so I am providing the appropriate one here] of their Quality
Policy says, “Thermax Kamgar Sanghatana is committed to promote harmonious industrial
relations between employer and employees and subscribes to the core principle
that the interests of employees will be served best by placing the Organisation’s
interest above everything else.”
Industrial Relations experts will be reminded of the Toyota stance on
Unions which says ‘… both [Management and the Union] should recognize that the
prosperity of the company is the common objective and both must use thorough
communication in order to resolve any differences of opinions….’ [See ‘Toyota
These stories reiterate that there is a huge scope, unexplored in many cases,
for collaboration although purists will point out that conflict cannot be
altogether eliminated. It is quite common for experts to mention that the
relationship between management and unions is like husband and wife. I have never
liked that analogy, and no marks for guessing why!
As I was
speaking to Keshav Gholve in his Union’s office, I noticed a ‘poster’ on the
wall. It said [in Marathi] ‘Management and Union are like a bird’s [Industry]
two wings.’ No bird can fly with just one wing. It also represents the new found
assertion for ‘equal partner status’ of the unions.
Is this change going to
spread? It should. What say you?
"What you leave
behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the
lives of others."
See the first post in this series here:
Trade Unions as Business Partners – The Emerging Trend http://hrblog.vivekvsp.com/2014/09/trade-unions-as-business-partners.html
1. Industrial Relations Thermax Union Way http://hrblog.vivekvsp.com/2011/01/industrial-relations-thermax-union-way.html
2. Bajaj Auto Union First Steps on a Road Less Travelled. http://hrblog.vivekvsp.com/2012/03/bajaj-auto-union-first-steps-on-road.html