The murder of Awanish Kumar Dev and the brutal attack on other employees at the Maruti Manesar plant has left the community devastated. The response has been unanimous: justice should be done. Whatever the provocation, a murder is a criminal act and that has nothing to do with industrial relations or social inequity or any of the reasons bandied about by the apologists.
There are larger questions that need to be discussed extensively beyond the case in point. This is an opportunity for all of us to reflect about the larger underlying problems - increasing tensions between management and workers, the widening distance between the two in terms of wage disparity and working conditions, and most importantly, the need for intelligence and rapid action that has been so lacking in governmental response to organized violence. Also pertinent is the fact that management and boards have left the entire issue of industrial relations out of their business and strategic focus and bucketed it as an HR issue to be dealt by HR alone.
There are questions on how all stakeholders need to address these issues. This requires an honest attempt from all parties to re-think what needs to be done to build an inclusive and sustainable ecosystem for business development and nation building. Starting from the required changes in India’s archaic labor laws to ensuring that industry is competitive in the sectors that contribute heavily to GDP; to the need for companies to ensure workers have sufficient purchasing power. And above all, for the government to correct the follies of letting inflation run riot with a disastrous combination of fiscal imprudence and a lack of attention to reforms.
This is the time when all stakeholders need to get together and address these emerging questions. There is no doubt that these are very complex issues, and require willingness by all the stakeholders, from the government, business leaders, HR representatives, unions, and the community at large. It is also clear that there is a need to bridge the capability gap in managing industrial relations, from the perspective of both managers and unions - not just from the legal and managerial point of view but also from the emotional and psychological.
The paradigm shift will happen when the parties stay away from finger pointing and focus on working together to find permanent solutions. It is time to stop talking and start acting, let us make sure that the sacrifices made by good people like Awanish do not go waste.