Tuesday, December 23, 2008
A friend of mine works in a famous automobile company of India in the capacity of production manager. His plant is a high capacity plant and produces a big percentage of the total number of heavy automobiles produced in India every year. Reputation wise his company is one of the most respected and trusted companies of India with high standards of quality which is accepted as a hallmark. However, in the various discussions that I’ve had with him about the work culture in his factory, I have been made aware of the irrevocable presence of the labour union and its effect on the production capability of the companies like his.
For instance, the company can incur a big loss at the end of an assembly line just because the labourer working at some point in the line got his evening tea with a 5 minute delay! The middle managers live under a constant threat from the unions and with the not so old incident of the CEO of a company in Gurgaon being killed by the labourers even the top level managers and owners of such a factory feel a chill down their spine when facing the union or sorting out a genuine problem. The recent economic crunch has lead to layoffs across all sectors but the labour union in almost all factories has made sure that the working class is untouched by the situation. The bully unions have fought for the rights of its members tooth and nail on all occasions, at all times. The working class in India is not paid much so this structure may be necessary to safeguard the lives of those who work each day at low wages and deplorable conditions so that our nation can march forward.
One of the fastest growing sectors of Indian economy, the IT and ITES sector is also one of the chief employment providers now and like any other sector the disparity in the remuneration, facilities, etc. is evident along the hierarchy of any IT company. While the CEOs and top management get a heavy share of the profits the payments made to the entry level engineers, lower order management and the like is very less. In the present scenario the situation has become even worse with layoffs and salary cut across the board. While the rights of lowest level workers in a manufacturing unit are well protected by the strong unions (who can even threaten to bring down the whole unit if wronged), the lowest level workers in an IT company have none. The over staffed IT giants have slashed their work force drastically in the past few months with their plans of expansion going awry and the employees had to bear the brunt. This economic crisis presses for a need for an IT labour union more than ever. There are a number of start-ups which have no employee policy to safeguard the rights of the people who work with them and since the future of a startup is itself not secure the government needs to step in to make sure that the employees’ lives and families are taken care of.
One major problem in the establishment of such an IT labour union is the scattered presence of the employees in various companies. A union within an IT giant is very feasible but one that covers every person employed in any IT company is a little difficult due to the physical absence of everyone in one working facility. However, there are ways to bring this notion to effect. Internet is a great medium for people of the IT sector to form a union and if the idea catches up with more and more people a little government intervention can turn this ‘virtual union’ into a physical force safeguarding the rights of millions.