'There is a dearth of 'IR ready' managers
The field of IR is much beyond the stray incidents of violence reported in the press and strikes and lockouts should not be seen as a normal practice
It is fantastic that the new government’s focus is on manufacturing. This will spur investments in the sector and also boost job creation propelling the wheels of the economy. However, it will require great execution on ground.
The Union government has taken certain initial steps to make business more viable and sustainable. These include promoting skill development, streamlining the social security framework and services and improving transactions in Provident Fund. However, a few issues like restrictive practices / laws will have to be looked at for areas relating to wage levels, working conditions, safety, welfare and social security. The Rajasthan government has started off on the right foot by making state-level amendments to three critical and archaic Central government labour legislations – the Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act – thus paving the way for corporates to unshackle themselves from the stringent requirements of the laws. The other states can also follow this model.
HR managers and IR
While HR managers have been rising to the occasion, over the past 15 years, functional areas of HR other than Industrial Relations have been more in demand. It is a matter of fact that today there is a dearth of ‘ready’ managers to handle challenging IR situations. This has been well understood all across and various initiatives are underway.
The CEO’s and Industry Forums recognize the gap of HR Professionals with regards to skills and expertise in handling IR. I have been observing increasing number of workshops for knowledge sharing and skill building in IR over the last 2 years. The Management schools are also providing emphasis to IR in their HR Curriculum. The value added by professionals in IR is measurable and hence the increase in demand for the expertise. We should also understand that the field of IR is much beyond the stray incidents of violence reported in the Press and strikes and lockouts should not be seen as a normal practice.
All in all, I see very good career opportunities for emerging professionals in the field of IR which will allow them to bring in innovative practices in working with people.
While employers, unions and workers alike have been waiting for labour reforms for quite some time, it is necessary for the government to ensure that employers are looking at the well-being of the workers. While workers want to be assured of job security, companies need to comply with the laws of the land and ensure that all employees will be looked after be it welfare facilities, handling of grievances etc. It is also useful to have awareness programmes for workers so that they know their rights and duties.
At Hindalco, we take employee grievances very seriously and have discussions with employees and Unions on a regular basis. We also have joint teams of managers and workmen who discuss shop floor issues periodically. In all our units, monthly / quarterly open houses are held to share performance highlights. In addition, the house magazines provide coverage and recognition to achievements of workmen and their family members too. In many companies, the annual day/sports day is a good event to connect.
In many companies, there are several joint or participative forums where workers can address their grievances. Additionally, factory workmen participate in quality circles, suggestion schemes and safety programmes.