Article (April-2020)


Trust & Transparency- A model for harmonious Industrial Relations

Deepanjan Dey

Designation : -   General Manager-HRM

Organization : -  Tata Steel BSL Ltd., Angul, Odisha


73416 Total View        

Human Resource as subject has transformed over the decades to suit the changing times. During its transformation it was predicted that Industrial Relations as its sub-function will die its natural death or at least its importance will diminish. However, such predictions have not only been proved wrong but on the contrary we find the importance of Industrial Relations have only increased manifolds. According to the estimates made by the Labour Bureau, Shimla, India lost 11.73 lakh man days to strikes in 2017 costing the country Rs 550 crore. This number when compared with 2016 the number of man days lost increased by 44% in 2017, resulting in 57% more production loss.

What has changed over the times is the aspirations of the workmen.The first-generation or otherwise known as the salient generation workmen were loyal to the organization and were contend to just have their ends meet. The second generation (baby boomers) were looking for more security and have undergone through a phase when Trade union movements were taking shapes. The generation X, Y, Zand the millennials are aspirational to varied degree and have now have access to various information courtesy the social media and other avenues of communication. The difference we find in an executive cadre and the workmen of these generationsis in the mobility. In case of the former they are mobile to satisfy their aspirationsand are willing to opt out of the organization for greener pastures but the later will hard press for their demand except for the few exceptional skilled categories of workmen. The impediment for these category of workmen lies in the mindset as well in the job market which is still not that lucrative for opting out of their cocoon.

We also find the engagement of contract labours have increased in leaps and bound owing to the mindset of the organization that engagement of Contract Labour will lessen the burden and industrial strife. This is true to an extent,but the engagement of Contract Laboursshould be in real terms follow the outsourcing modelin letter and spirit.In practice it is found that in most of the organizations the contract labours are unionized, work on regular basis even in perennial nature of job over a long period of time. Even in case of change of contract the contractor changes but the contract labours continue to work in the organization. Their employment is most cases guided and regulated by wage settlement negotiated with the Principal Employer but signed by the Contractors and the Union with Principal Employer as witnesses. However, if put to judicial scrutiny it might be difficult to prove a sham contract as system and process in most structured organization are robust now a days but in reality, these Contractors are only for name sake.The assumption is often misplaced, misconceived and erroneous that engagement Contract Labour will diminish the liability and IR strife in the organization. In recent past have we have been the witness to many Industrial strike and strife owing to Contract Labours in many major industrial establishments.

The purpose of the foregoing paragraphs is to put a background in perspective. The question that arises is there any rule or method to deal with the Industrial Relations at hindsight. Though there cannot be any written down formula for harmonious Industrial Relations as dynamics are bound to differ from organization to organization, but certain rule of basics will remain the same universally. Industrial Relation must be an investment made over a considerable period of time and has to be built on the edifice of trust and transparency. The model can be defined or termed as TT, one T for Trust and the other T for Transparency. In building the edifice of IR on TT model the other important aspect is the basic hygiene of the organization which plays a very vital role in cementing this model. For implementing this model an organization needs lot of patience and perseverance as fruits will not come out instantly or immediately. However, it is certain that if this model is followed fruit willripe for sure and thereafter there will be no looking back for the organization.To take this discussion further we will now elaborate on how the organization can practice this model and as to what is basic hygiene to reap the desired dividends and to establish a harmonious industrial relation in the respective organization.

Emotional Bank Account- To create a model of Industrial Relation on trust, the emotional bank account of the organization with its workmen, Union and stake holder must be high. Emotional Bank account is an account where you deposit trust instead of money. This concept of emotional bank account was espoused by Steve Covey in his famous book 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People'. Covey identifies six basic parameters to make the deposits or reduce such withdrawals. These six parameters when seen in the context of Industrial Relations it not only holds good but should be the basic guidelines to develop trust amongst the stakeholders, workmen and Union. The six ways which Steve Covey advocated and put it in the context of Industrial Relations can be summed up as follows:

1. Understanding the Individual- It means listening intently to what the stake holder, workmen and union is saying and empathizing with their difficulties.

2. Keeping Commitments- The organizationshould keep its commitment once made either formally or informally.

3. Clarifying Expectations- An organization should always properly unequivocally communicate the expectations to their workmen, Union and stake holders.This will help to avoid conflict at a later stage during implementation of any strategy or goal of the organization.

4. Attending to the little thing- Sometimes little things and small grievances if not attended can become big issue in the organization. Hence, attending the little ones at appropriate time is of huge importance to earn the trust of the stake holders.

5. Showing Personal Integrity- Integrity is the moral floor upon which trusting relationships are built. Hence, whoever deals with the Union should be of soundmoral character. Then it makes it so easy for the Union to trust the person and in turn the Management.

6.Apologizing when we make a withdrawal- We may make mistakes; it's part of life. But when we see we have violated a trust, sincerely apologizing is how we make a deposit to counteract the damage which might have been done.

The greatest mistake the management does is to extract its pie when the leader or the union is willing to do things as per their diktat. In present days most of the HR professional are on move and hence sometimes they overlook the long-term organizational interest and extract the benefits from the union in clandestine dealings if the union leader is in good relationship with the concerned person. However, such approach can later have disastrous and adverse consequences for the organization. The basic doctrine of the emotional bank balance is never accumulate a high emotional balance in order to make planned withdrawals later.

Transparency- The basic edifice of trust can be built only on transparency. It will not be an understatement to say trust and transparency are complimentary to each other and one cannot exist without the other.Hence, the kind of exuberance management demonstrate in transparency and reflects it in its behaviour is of prime importance. Every activity of the management is being watched by the stake holders of the organization. Hence, it better to be transparent more so in the age of social media where at a touch of a button all information are available. Any activities to name a few like allotting houses to workmen, recruitment in any cadre or giving a contract to a contractor should be transparent based on sound policies and practices. Any deviation made thereto should not be concealed and should have valid and coherent reasons to defend it. All negotiation with the Union on any issues or any aspect should be transparent and fair. Only if transparency is brought in every dealings and activities especially which are in public domain and are not made clandestinely or no undue favouritism has been shown to any person or group then only the stake holders and workmen will trust the organization and the emotional bank balance will be high.

Basic Hygiene- Basic hygiene is one of the most important aspect for TT model to succeed.  Trust deficit often generates amongst the workmen, union and other stake holders if the basic hygiene of the organization is not maintained in way it should be maintained. By basic hygiene it means the welfare amenities statutory or otherwise an organization provide to their workmen. Canteen, Rest Rooms, Urinals and latrines etc which are very basics sometimes remains neglected and therefore creates an atmosphere of disdain towards the management amongst the workmen. IR managers will agree canteen remains the most vulnerable area in an organization which can spark any industrial unrest at any moment of time. These amenities should be provided in the best possible manner and if possible, without any distinction of class and grade.  Beside the amenities the other aspect of basic hygiene is to ensure that the wages of the workman and compliances especially the provident fund and ESI are time bound and are dealt transparently. In most organization the challenges do not lie with the on-roll workmen as mostly their things pertaining to their salary and wages are systematic. However, the challenges lie in case of the Contract workmen more so if their engagement are in large numbers. Hence, there need to be a robust system and process to red flag the management in time in case of any deviation/s to the standard practice. An organization which will invest sincerely on basic hygiene will create an atmosphere of good will which in turn will increase the emotional bank account of the organization.

Conclusion -

The TT model combined with the basic hygiene can go a long way to establish a harmonious Industrial Relation in the organization. However, an organization needs a fair degree of will power to implement this model. It has been found that in spite of good intentions, evenmany big houses still struggle to implement it in right spirit the essence of TT model or basic hygiene irrespective of good policies and practices. This is where the organizations need to introspect, analyse and find out the gaps to implement the model in right spirit. At times it has been found that due to personal perception and aspiration of the corporate leader which is not tuned to ground reality can damage the edifice of the model. Hence, personal aspiration, ambition should not come in way for implementing this model of TT. Once implemented in right sprit and earnest it is bound to bring success in Industrial Relations. It has the strength even to turn around a militant or a belligerent union in the organization. However, it needs a lot of patience, perseverance, time and energy over a considerable period of timefor this model to become successful.