Voluntary Code in 'Industrial Relations' Is A Must

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 1872 , Published on 17 October 2012

There are several discourses and empty sounds heard in the echelons of Industry ever since the gruesome killing at the Manesar premises. There is a sympathetic concern shown towards the murder of an HR head. There are expressions of “How & Why’ from the highest leadership in the corporate world. There are serious concerns raised about the ability of the Industry to retain talent at the Plant level. There are accusations made on the manner in which ‘HR’ scenario has deteriorated in the corporate world. There are concerns of lack of Labor reforms in the country. There are references to Industrial terrorism.

There are statements made about the inability of Management Institutes to churn out good quality leaders at the Plant level and about ‘HR’ function overall. There are huge concerns raised about the politicalization of the organized workforce. There are talks about the lack of commitment shown by the workforce in sustaining an Industry in a competitive world. There are talks about deficiencies in the skill, shift in attitude and lack of discipline in the workforce. There are strong comparisons made to work ethics in China and other developing countries and free statements are made on the inability of today’s workman to rise to the performance levels expected from him.

There are questions raised by leaders in the service sector about the manufacturing sector’s lack of leadership in managing employee relations. There are statements questions raised about how the young leader of today is unable to reflect on leadership for masses and plant processes. Everybody is talking: the individual, the fraternity, the association, the entrepreneur, Functional experts, Trade Union leaders (albeit in their own context), the society, the political class, state and central leadership. There are also opportunistic moves made towards reflecting on policies of state and asking for dislocation of Industry to sustain state growth.

However there is not a single thought paper reflecting on the basic but critical facts which have been emerging over the last ten years and are fully responsible for the situation as it stands today:

a. Exploitation of the working class through management of contracts. The HR function has ensured this by complying with Leadership demands as a result of their failure to manage Labor.

b. What we once discussed, during our school days, as bad labor management in the textile sector, has today become a reality in many industries including the so called ‘FMCG’. You have permanent workmen, permanent contract workmen, temporary workman, temporary contract workman, badli permanent workmen, and services workmen.

c. The labor community can now be bought off through hefty settlements, some of which are unprecedented. We also have separate settlements for various categories of contract workmen while the Unions and labor offices turn a blind eye.

d. Total lack of workforce development training in skill enhancement, attitude corrections and knowledge improvement.

e. Knee jerk strategies by leaders for managing efficiency and effectiveness, which are more to ensure that their bonuses are in place for the time they plan to serve in the Industry.

f. Seeking protection from falsified SEZ concepts.

g. Recalcitrant attitude of the Trade Union movement. We can hardly talk of a matured Trade Union movement in the whole country.

h. Paralyzed conciliation and adjudication process especially for the labor community. The Office of commissioner of Labor is now defunct.

i. Inability of the Apprentice Leadership community, both functional and strategic, to experience a good plant stint. They all wish to start from air conditioned offices with guarantees of a foreign posting in their hands.

j. Complete absence of the process of collective bargaining. The majority of the settlements are one to one with the negotiations process being just a façade.

k. Absenteeism is on the rise and authorized leaves are never spared.

l. Permanent workmen drive in a car while contract workmen can still not afford one. Differential living has created many issues.

m. Plant engineers and Supervisors cannot command respect any more. They have become mere watchmen.

The whole concept of Management of Industrial Relations has shifted but the Society outside still raises expectations of the old system of community relations. The Basic Humane practices have given way to hefty jargons which have not cascaded to workmen communities and Union leaders are not concerned at all. There is a divide between the process of the workmen ethics and expectations of the leadership. Collaborations, mergers and acquisitions have created further issues. The inability of the foreign Boards to synchronize with the climate of employee relations management in India has created stressful situations where functional leadership are forced to resort to survival techniques.

The service sector has added to the confusion. The manufacturing sector wishes to compare their service conditions with the service sector and the urge to have international best practices and ratings of “Great place to work” has brought unwarranted service rules to the manufacturing sector. The blue collar feels a polish of white is better for him. The elements of business in the form of Capital, Markets, Technology and Processes have been liberalized. The threats are more often than not in management of Human Capital. Automation is seen as an answer and robotics a substitute but intensity of Human Capital requirements has not reduced. To top it off, attrition is out of control. Hence the strategy has becomes appeasement.

In employee relations one basic paradigm can never be forgotten. It is called Fairness and Firmness. It is age old and well validated. It has to come back if the Manufacturing sector wishes to show sustained growth and innovation. We need a Voluntary code to be developed immediately for this profession. The function has received its fair attention at the Strategic level. But they are likely to miss the boat if they do not bring back the value system required to manage the Human Capital. There is no choice. The fall out is apparent.  A course correction is required and self audit or Board audit is envisaged. Since compensation considerations are now reviewed at the apex level through a compensation committee then why should Employee relations not become a part of it? One may laugh at the concept of a Committee for governance of employee relations, let them. If the profession does not adopt and practice a Voluntary code then this intervention would become inevitable.

We sincerely appeal to the various associations and councils to deliberate on this and ensure its implementation before it is too late. We appeal to the Functional Fraternity to take this up as a singular performance objective for this year in the interest of the growth of the sector. The academia should also bring in interventions to sustain the young minds of tomorrow. We have defaulted too long but it is not too late. The nation needs it, we can do it and we can ensure it is done. There are several ratifications available from ILO, SLC etc. on this. We need to bring it into force. Let us not displace this requirement with our comfort level maxim, “Society has to Change”.

The above article is collaborative effort of Students at SCMHRD (Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development), Pune

Image Source: http://hr.utmb.edu/relations/


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