The reason for the increasing frequency of labour disputes seems to be a lack of trust
We need to have a relook at our employee relations; a relationship that is based on mutual trust. It is important for organizations to realize that the fundamental aspect of management is human relationship and hence, efforts must be made to build robust relationship. The credibility of the management philosophy can be established when it is seen by the employees to be objective, transparent and at the same time firm and fair. Despite the best efforts to put in place a performance based and productivity linked team culture, there have been instances of labor unrests which at times have turned violent. The possible reasons could be lack of trust, lack of credibility from both sides, profile of the employees, politicized union, fragmented union, union rivalry and yes, weak union leadership. However, unions alone cannot be put to fault. Lack of supervision and foresightedness on the part of the management cannot be ruled out. Add to this, the fact that there are employers who take unfair advantage of employees owing to their rural background, culture and illiteracy, and resort to unfair practices in managing the unions. For instance, despite the Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970, stating that contract labor should not be employed for core jobs barring few exceptions; however they are being employed to perform jobs which are permanent in nature on the pretext of flexibility and cost. The main culprit in this arena happens to be the government and semi-government organizations.
To a large extent, the acrimony between the two can be nipped in the bud if the employer puts in place a good transparent communication regarding the policies. Policies in themselves must be well articulated (the exit policy too necessarily needs to be well articulated), stipulated and must seek involvement of workers. Workers join union as they need someone to address grievances on their behalf. If organizations are not comfortable with unions then it is important that their employee relation policies be absolutely clear. Each and everyone should be given a fair opportunity in the organization. The culture should be such that everybody is treated at par. Employers should be proactive and not reactive. At the same time, the role of government and conciliation machinery should be proactive and prompt.
There is a need to bring in uniformity in the existing system of law. Industrial Disputes Act and Trade Union Act need to be revamped. The law should propagate common definition as far as possible and state clear set of guiding principles. There must be strict implementation of equal work – equal pay. A productivity based approach which is a win-win situation is the need of the hour. Measures to avoid outsider and political influence on union management must be looked into. Industrial trade dispute resolution should be time bound and should not be allowed to be protracted.
As I see it, I feel that the main reason for the increasing frequency of labor disputes seems to be the lack of trust. It is important to have a good understanding of people management coupled with a strong orientation in labor laws.