Article (July-2016)

Articles

HR-IR Dilemma of a Manager

SUJIT KUMAR BHUNIYA

Designation : -   FORMER GM-NDDB

Organization : -  NDDB

01-Jul-2016

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One day  the telephone was ringing at  6am  and it was  an early morning  first call to pick up. The moment telephone receiver is lifted,  the HR Manager over heard the shouting of slogans. The security man from the other side was telling in a loud voice to offset the noise   "Sir, the workmen struck work and gathered at factory gate shouting slogans.  The HR Manager is perplexed over the sudden development. He never expected and did not have even iota of doubt or suspicion about this unimaginable and haywire   development of the IR Problem. Slowly realizing the need to know the details and combat the situation before it further deteriorates, the HR Manager asked the security man" what is the reason the workmen are talking about for the sudden strike. The security man said "Sir, the issuance of leave card". This is another rude shock to the HR manager. The workmen struck work on this trivial issue.  The HR Manager rushed to the factory to take stock of the situation and to initiate damage control measures.


A Professional Company with human approach
This is a real story without any frills added. An account of events in this case will certainly place any HR Manager in a dilemma. A company at Hyderabad leader in their business employs about three hundred employees on regular rolls and about another two hundred as contractor's workmen. The company pays decent salaries with all statutory and many non statutory benefits to their employees besides good working environment. As per the training scheme of the company, a person without any technical qualification will be taken as trainee for two years and his regularisation is considered subject to satisfactory performance and vacancies from time to time. A person was taken as trainee under the scheme and on completion of two years training with satisfactory performance, the management is considering his case for regularisation: while the process is on sudden development that took place had completely changed the situation and led to problems for both management and the trainee.


Sudden sickness- the root cause of the problem
A bolt from the blue had fallen and the dreams of regular employment to the trainee person were dashed off by a sudden illness that was finally diagnosed as gullian barre syndrome. The lower limbs of the person were completely paralysed and he was in a state of immobility. The company covered him under ESI Scheme.  However the management with human consideration arranged treatment in super speciality hospital. The management assured the payment of medical bills by the company .After one month of in house treatment he was advised physiotherapy at home and fortnightly check up and treatment at the hospital. The company purchased physiotherapy equipment for regular exercises at home and arranged a car with assistance of one employee to go for treatment as per the advice of the doctor's .Finally, the person recovered half way after two years of treatment. Surprisingly on approaching the ESI doctors fitness certificate is given.


Trade unions approach to the problem
The trade unions in the company never bothered even to visit the patient when he was in the hospital. The proposal of HR Manager to work extra on a Sunday to contribute the extra day's wages for the help and medical expenses of the person was initially turndown stating that he was only a trainee. It was finally agreed to after a lot of persuasion by the HR Manager. One day wages contributed by the workmen with matching contribution from the management will only meet half of the expenditure. The management paid the   shortfall amount. In fact the management is not under obligation to arrange treatment in super speciality hospital.  A person under training with ESI coverage can be sent to ESI hospital for treatment as its obligation. The management took pains and arranged super speciality treatment on humanitarian consideration as the facilities at ESI hospital are hopelessly inadequate. The restrictions on the expenditure by the ESI authorities for reimbursement of expenses will certainly put treatment in jeopardy and the process of treatment leaving the person with life long disability. Mean while trade union elections were held and the elected recognised union came into picture with a demand to regularise the person as workman. The management is still in a dilemma whether to regularise him with all his not fully cured illness and so called fitness certificate. A second opinion sought from another doctor on the fitness of the person reveal that he is not fit. He is not able to walk properly with the help of support systems. It is really preposterous to consider the demand of the union that such a person is taken as workman on the shop floor. Conceding to the demand of union would certainly endanger the life of workman. However the management is considerate and magnanimous enough to accommodate the person as regular employee. It is not a question of unions demand or management's acceptance ultimately it is the life of the person at stake if he is considered for shop floor employment. The magnanimity of the management prevailed over the petty politics of the union and his case is considered for a white collar employment as data entry operator after due training and therefore he is in the white collar staff category in the company.


HR Manager’s Dilemma   
The HR Manager was initially not able to understand the demand of the union as to why they were asking for workman status of the person. As he was digging deep into the issue it is astonishing to note that workman has a voting right in the union elections whereas staff category employees are not part of any union and union elections in the company. There is a practice in the company to issue two different colour leave cards separately to the staff and workmen. The person in question is given training in computer operation and entrusted with stress free light job in the interests of his health and well being. When the management  is almost about  to give a leave card to him that is  meant for staff , the union made it an issue and resorted to strike without notice.  Of course the industry is not a public utility service under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947. The strike in a company is really agonising and intriguing experience to any HR Manager. In the above circumstances-


1. Whether the approach and the actions of the management in this case are right.

2. Whether the union is justified in their demand and action. 

3. What is the course of action suggested to resolve the strike?


4. What measures or approach should be taken to avoid recurrence of such incidents?