Article (May-2018)


Transparency and consistency are the key drivers

Dr. S.K. Raijada

Designation : -   President -Corporate HR & Group IR

Organization : -  Piramal Glass Limited, Vadodara


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How do you see and define new age labour relations? How it differs from old age industrial relations dynamics, thought process and action approach?
SK New Age Labour relations are different from old age industrial relations. Due to improved level of education, the workmen are aware of the changes in Industries. They are also well connected through social media and aware of what is happening across the world. In Present era, the organization cannot hide anything from the bargaining workforce. They are ready to give the increase in the productivity but demand due share in profitability. Transparency & Consistency are the Key drivers.
The old approach of submitting the Charter of Demand, having multiple round of negotiations and at times giving notice of strike as a pressure tactic; the said trend is declining. In Pune region, there are unions who have signed the settlements without submitting the charter of demands just in a one day and got much more amount for their workmen than they would have got by submitting the charter of demands.
Do you think that Trade unions are slowly becoming irrelevant in this age of knowledge and digital economy, and if so, and what corrections they should make in their approach and perspective to stay relevant?
SK The unionization of workforce is going to remain but intensity of routine issues are declining at least in organized sector. In India nearly 92 to 93% workforce engaged in unorganized sector and unions hardly have presence in these sector. Globalization, Free trade agreements have opened the doors of world market to MNCs as well as for Indian Companies. In this changed era, Indian companies cannot operate in isolation. Increased competition and survival for existence made companies to adapt new technology and increase automation which resulted into less usage of labour. Globalization also made the changes in thinking of socialistic pattern of employment. Employer and Government also started to fill the labour intensive job through contract labour system, the sector which is not yet organized. Increase level of education and knowledge among youth also played the role in change in thinking pattern towards Union. Presently Youth believe in "Individualistic" approach than "collectivism". Apart from this, militant era of Union leader in 1980's also damaged the labour movement in India. Textile workers Strike of 1984 had devastating impact on employment and such strike made thousands of workers unemployed. More importantly it had changed the society approach towards looking at Union and Labour movement.
Union should not restrict themselves only up to organized sectors. They should take up the causes of labours working in unorganized sector. Government have passed many laws to protect and provide social security measures to unorganized and weaker section of society but reality is that they are still farfetched from mostly needed persons. Unions should act positively for implementation of the same. If need be they should take up the cause to the court in order to get justice to weakest section of the society.
Is labour day representing origin of collectivism losing its shine and if yes, why?
SK Labour days is celebrated across world to celebrate the collective accomplishments of workers. Its history goes back to 1st May 1886 when Labour Unions in United States of America decided to go on strike with the demand for not more than 8 hours of work for a day. In India Labour Day was first celebrated in Chennai on 1st May 1923 by the Labour Party of Hindustan. They said party passed the resolution that Government should announce a national Holiday on the May day. Thus, May day or Labour Day is celebrated yearly as an official holiday all over the world to celebrate the achievements of workers.
In Present context it is just a Holiday. Every passing day society is becoming more and more individualistic and materialistic. The concept of collectivism is only remembered during the massive downsizing/lay off/retrenchment/LTS as that is last resort to individual to protect the job. We have seen the same in IT industry in late 2017 where IT employees have formed the unions primarily to protect their job from massive downsizing. But for individual cases collectivism is distinct.
In manufacturing sector, will robotics going to impact blue collar jobs negatively and if yes, what Proactive steps HR  should take in advance to maintain a fine balance in job opportunities and technology advancements?
SK Robotics will certainly affect the blue collar jobs in Manufacturing Sector. In fact, it will drastically reduce Labour intensive Jobs in manufacturing sector. The skill required for this job is also different. HR needs to create awareness among the worker category about the changes in technology. It also needs to explain/convince the worker why robotics is essential for long term survival of plant and company. HR can handle this situation through effective communication and focus on re-skilling/up-grading existing skills through more focus on proactive approach on learning and development. HR must tune the balance of technology up gradation and human deployment. They need to instill the confidence among the different stakeholders about the said change. HR should focus on holistic approach rather than short cut. If Plant has union, please take them into confidence. Please explain pros and cons of technology up gradation with them. Identify workers whose skills can be up graded; identify worker who can be sent to different job/department/Function after equipping them with appropriate skills. The worker who cannot fit into the system please provide them alternative career path. Fortunately, technology up-gradation/developments also opens up new avenues for working class. Such as Ola, Uber Cabs, Amazon, Flipcart etc. It requires designed thinking and creating win - win situation.
How do you evaluate the objectivity and impact of labour reforms undertaken by Govt. on labour relations?
SK In India, Central and state put together we have approximately 145 to 150 Labour Laws. Most of them are outdated or not changed as per the changing time. Government of India is focusing on ease of doing business and Labour reforms is one of the important element in the same. The Government intentions are good but they are facing stiff oppositions from Unions as they feel it will have adversely affect on labour class. To boost the employment in country, Government has taken various initiatives such as skill development, National Employability Enhancement Scheme, National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme etc. Employer's should also take these schemes in right perspective and try to avoid the exploitation of the said scheme. We are still far away from developed economy as far as labour Laws and its implementation.
How dignity of job and respect for labour is enhanced in the industry?
SK It is important that every job should be respected irrespective of nature of work he/she is carrying out. Normally society give more weightage to "White collar" Job than that of "Blue Collar" Job. It resulted more demand for such white collar job and less supply to Blue collar Job. There is acute shortage of good Plumbers, welders, carpenters, electricians etc. in the society to name a few trades. Emphasis should be given for skill development and generating self employment which provides good earnings to the individual. It's a cultural issue and there is no overnight remedy available.
How do you evaluate the emerging scenario of labour management relationship in India?
SK I think Labour Management relationship in India is moving towards matured stage. Now Labour/Union is considered as important stakeholder and partner in the development of business. These days unions are ready to provide the productivity in turn they demand share in profits. Unions have also realized that their existence depends upon the survival of an Industry. These days union prefers to sort out the disputes/problems through negotiations instead of adopting route of litigation or strike etc. The reducing no. of labour litigations in various courts and before Labour authorities, reduced no. of reported strikes also confirms that change in union Stand. At the same time, rampant use of contract Labour over a period of time, differential wage and working conditions to contract labours may give some rise to employee relations problems in coming days. If contract labour system is not managed properly, it has propensity to blow like unfortunate incidents in Auto industries.
What qualities would you expect to see in modern HR managers that embrace ER skills and any message from you to the younger HR generation?
SK I feel HR manager should understand business first. Based upon the business objectives, he needs to develop HR strategy. Employee Relations is one of strategic function of Human Resource. The importance of the said function can be highlighted on basis, it cannot be outsourced like other functions of HR such as Recruitment, Training and Development, Payroll management etc. To become successful in Employee relations, one needs to have good understanding of Labour laws, he should be good negotiator and communicator, to have persuasion and patience. More importantly he should have good business understanding.