I have an untold story about
labour reforms. It must be told. Let me explain. I visited many places in
different states, and also visited industries there. I realised that the Hon’ble
Prime Minister is completely misled on the issue of labour Law Reforms. The
reforms have already taken place!
Here is what I discovered:
Ministers have a ‘helping’
attitude [So do Employers, they help Ministers]!
I met an entrepreneur. His
establishment was an SME, and it had built up reputation in the market. During
my conversation he told me that his workers were organised by a union which was
led by a Minister. The entrepreneur had excellent rapport with his workers and
identified the workers who were members. Simultaneously a deal was struck with
the Minister. The entrepreneur removed the members gradually and made his
organisation ‘union-free.’ All this with the connivance of the Minister. All is
well now on the IR front.
Officials are so friendly!
In a small establishment, I was
looking up their statutory records. The Accident register was blank for the
last three years. I questioned the HR Manager. He initially said that there was
no accident at all and they have an accident free factory. He pointed out to
the big board at the main gate which talked about high safety standards. On
more detailed questioning he admitted that there were accidents. But entry in
accident register meant harassment from Factory inspectorate. Several visits.
Threats of prosecution. Bribes. This solution was easily implemented with a
small payment during Diwali festival to the Factory inspectorate. This story
with the same theme is repeated with change of names of players and change of some
insignificant details almost everywhere.
The HR manager hastened to add
that the Company pays compensation in case of accidents. Aw! Grateful for small
Even workers are
helping to make changes in law!
I was speaking to a Silvassa
based manager of plastic goods manufacturer. The number of permanent workers in
that factory was in the range 10 to 20. Contract labourers numbered 300. Permanent
workers worked 8 hour shift and the contract labour, mainly from Odisha,
invariably worked 12 hours shift. That was an express but only a verbal term of
employment. Why so? I asked. The reply [and this is unfortunately true!] was
that if you give them eight hour shift, they go and work elsewhere another 8
hours because the workers from Odisha come to Silvassa with the only intention
of making money!
This manager feared that I might advise
his bosses to ensure that only 8 hour shift is run in the company. So he went
on to caution me, “This is well accepted system here. Do not disturb it.”
Gujarat has allowed manufacturers,
so also neighbouring Union Territories, to make their own labour laws!
Managers with ‘cadre
I was to hold a training program
on Employee Relations, at the insistence of their HO in Mumbai, in a very large
plant elsewhere. It was delayed. Not once but twice. The reason was that the
Plant HR Manager did not want the program to be held there at all. But he had
to bow to wishes of the HO finally. On arrival he said I could talk about
anything except labour laws, and discipline. The reason was that ‘Our plant is
run by engineers and ITI operators. So far we have no union, and do not want
too. Please do not give them ideas.’ What was there to be afraid of? The plant
was run in the first shift by permanent employees. But it was run in the second
and third shift by contract employees! And the operating managers were advised
that the ‘grievances’ of contract workers must be handled by contractor – to keep
sanctity of the contract.
This blindness [of the Nelson’s
Eye type] to the cadre of contract workers was threatened by the proposed training
conniving with Employers, though a few are pragmatic!
In a certain auto industrial unit, trainees and contract labour is grossly exploited and misused. Their number
runs in hundreds. The union of permanent employees was waging a war against the
company for wage revision. The union lodged several cases on this issue in the
Labour Court. Finally an agreement was reached between the company and the
union of the permanent workers, and they signed it with a lot of fanfare. One of
the term of the agreement was that the union will withdraw all cases lodged in
the labour court. So who is using contract labour for gains? Company or union?
In an engineering industry
separate settlements are signed with temporary workers. The official stance of
the union is that ‘we have to accept that nothing in life is permanent, but we
as a union can mitigate the hardship.’ So this being a practical way out, the
union has ensured that both, temporary workers and contract workers are given a
pay rise. Interesting stance that recognises reality of industrial life while ensuring
that their ‘IR rules’ are reset, without waiting for labour law amendments.
bolo, Narendrabhai, all is well, why make changes in law at all?
"What you leave behind is not what is
engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
Labels: Contract Labour, Labour Law Reforms, Make in India, Prime Minister, Statutory Compliance