1- Every ethical management adheres to right business practices and do the proper statutory compliances no matter how difficult or expensive the cost of compliance might be. Since company is looking for oversees market, the working conditions, workers' welfare, health and safety play an important role as people centric approach like above would help clear the buyer's audits enabling the company to obtain excellent score which is a condition precedent for penetrating in oversees market. In view of above, expectations & concerns of the young directors in board are judicious and not wrong at all.
2- I think, apprehensions of Plant HR are not unfounded and there are some elements of genuineness in their concern as far as plant IR conditions are concerned. Adherence to statutory compliances i.e. 8 hours of working will immediately result into reduction of wages of workmen by 33% which definitely will cause hardships to the workmen leading to dissatisfaction among the workmen, who are mostly migrants from other states, and higher possibility of IR problems also in near future. On the other hand, this exercise will result into increased expenses like Overtime payment at the rate double the normal rate of payment within statutory limit, higher cost of recruitment for approximately 35% of extra skilled manpower, leave with wages, gratuity, more supervisory staff for supervision of extra 35% manpower etc.
3- Firstly, Corporate HR should ask Plant HR Heads to speak with some of their senior and sensible workers (opinion makers) and tell them about the benefits of having 8 hours working such as, less fatigue, less absenteeism, lesser chances of accidents, better quality, better health, better work life balance and opportunity for the company to acquire oversees business which would eventually result into overall growth of the company. Besides, they should also be sensitised about the risk to the management of violation of applicable statutes. However while doing so, management should assure them that workers' interest would be taken care of in a manner that their hardships would be minimal. To mitigate the financial hardships, Management can start giving overtime as per the provisions of the Factories Act (OT limited to 50 hours in a quarter). This will bridge some gaps between what a workman used to get while working for 12 hours and what he would get while working for 8 hours.
Secondly, Corporate HR should introduce a 'Productivity Linked Incentive Scheme' in order to motivate workers to produce more in order to earn more. As workers would work for 8 hours only and will have less fatigue, their efficiency will increase. It will prove to be a good motivator as the incentives earned by the workmen would be good enough. The increased productivity would ensure no new recruitment of the workmen as enhanced productivity would take care of required output.
Thirdly, as there will be increased efficiency and increased output which will eliminate the possibility of no new recruitment, corporate HR may introduce a 'New Trainee Scheme' and recruit a few low cost trainees, if it is required at all.
Fourthly, Corporate HR should assure the workmen that after acquiring oversees business, the company management will take care of whatever little financial gap is now left, after introduction of 'Productivity Linked Incentive Scheme' and OT payment in the next 'Long Term Settlement'. This will help workers understand the good intent of the management & feel assured that management is genuinely interested in resolving their financial problems.
Lastly, all HR Heads should continue to persist with the work culture of mutual trust and goodwill and proactive attitude with more and more focus on preventive mechanism rather than curative therapy. Employees' Engagement Programs like family picnics, games & sports, festival celebrations etc. should be introduced in order to keep the workmen engaged and motivated. Besides, Plant HR Heads should keep a close watch on the activities of the workmen and be sensitive towards people issues while strengthening 'Grievance Redressal Mechanism' more.