The advent of COVID-19 and its impact across all aspects of our society has put enormous pressure on the overall employment and cost, in response, to a Work Committee and formulating an emergency response team which acts as an intermediary between the top-level management and the employees and also ensuring co-ordination within the company. Employers and permanent employees may agree to temporarily reduce the expenses, overhead cost by having austerity measures with participatory approaches.
Existence of corporate offices is to provide solutions and guidelines to the manufacturing plant site, because in corporate offices not only group HR is sitting but other subject matters experts are also there to provide readymade solutions and troubleshooting in case of manufacturing site requires specific solutions and guidelines to smooth operation of the plant.
It is proven that any corporate houses who have equipped with the SME (Subject matters experts) in each area, are competent enough to provide suggestions, guidelines, flexi policies which subject to change over a period of time. Corporate will also review the policies; remain contemporary to meet the vision and goals of the business.
Group HR should communicate only to HR and it will be responsibility of site HR instead of production Manager. So far company was not very much cash rich and was depended upon the OEMs orders, the unit management should also think wisely on the outcome and consequences of the 10% deductions if it is not feasible. There are two factors that influence this decision of salary deduction as to whether the plant was operational or not.
Looking into above, if the plant is operational, salary of the employees should not be cut, because the workmen are on duty and doing their daily work. If the Plant is not in operation, the responsibility of Group HR Head is to act as "strategic decision maker" and he should be able to co-ordinate and ably make decisions based on the feedback from the plant people and not to play the role of "Yes Man".
At the beginning, promising to Apex Management that he will be able to implement the decision of reducing salary of the 500 workers knowing that he had not spoken a single word with workmen or their representatives is nothing but an unwise decision. Even he could not sense the current IR situation at plant. Nor did he discuss anything with plant management team. 10% salary deduction and not paying due annual increment is like rubbing salt to in to wound.
1. All three COO, Plant HR Head and Production Manager were not handling the issue in effective way. While communicating with workers, one must also keep in mind the under current and worker's sentiments. Suicide of worker could be avoided by speaking softly and calmly. So, all together, there should be conversation between group of workers & arguments should be avoided.
2. It is said that venom is in the fangs of the snake, tale of the scorpion and tongue of human being. Production manager literally spit it whereas he could have make words act as Weapon and try to compromise the case for the benefits of workers. Employment of one of the family members of the one who committed suicide, compensation based on the age of worker could be options.In spite deduction of 10% from the employee's salary, there can be other alternatives to be explored.
In my view the following areas has to explore before final decision has to be taken:
- Fair and candid communication to the Site HR & Plant Head: These conditions would apply particularly if the business is forced to close.
- Management should lead by example before giving pay cut - As pay cuts especially those over an extended period, will effect employees' livelihood. Plant management should seek the consent of workers and engage employees before implementing such measures.
- Employer should be clear about the pay cut during the COVID period through future pay rise or when the business recovers. Similarly the other variable pay cut should be discussed with workers.
- Straightway 10% deduction from basic salary may affect their contribution of PF and ESI which would be more than 10%.
- Leave may be adjusted in spite of 10% salary could be other option. Working seamlessness with other department for effective communications.
- Allowances may be cut in spite of 10% deduction in Salary.
- Formal & Informal communication meetings could have been organized to have their consent and briefed about the situation.
- As Union was defunct but few members of the passive union were taken in to the confidence, similarly young workforce should have also been taken in to confidence. Not doing so resulted in to isolation from the old workforce.
- To avoid high voltage protest, management should immediately declare compensation in coordination with police and other government officials.
- Decision of not giving annual increment should be communicated to influence makers to avoid last minutes surprises, because it was also a point of discontentment amongst the workmen.Notorious workmen & other unionist may take advantages of it to blowout damagingly.
Employees contributes when they relate to the organization and they relate when they understand and accept the Organization philosophy and culture. Employees understand the organization through its values. In big organisations, such shared understanding can be created through collective Leadership. Such understanding and acceptance among employees is missing here.
Alok Kumar Srivastava, GM-IR, Sirpur Paper Mills (A Unit of JK Papers limited), Adilabad,Telangana