Legal & Management Consultant, Bangalore.
The buzz words LABOUR REFORMS hotly debated & overheard for the last four decades. Be it be the Government, Employers or Trade unions, the words have caught everyone. Highly controversial, critically debated, followed byemotional outbursts, protests, over the past for four decades. Labour Reforms mean differently for every stake holder. Business looked for removal restrictions in engaging / disengaging workers, flexibility, productivity whereas the Trade Unions looked for more liberal & assertiveness in terms of their rights &privileges and distancing away from business efficienciesand the Government looked for a balanced approach from the point of view of national economy and growth. This has been a triangular entanglement, and the triangle is incomplete without one arm. As faras Business is concerned, it is an annual calendar of events to pressurise the Central Government to bring out “Labour Reforms”. It has also become an annual routinepronouncement by Central Government at the time of presentation of Budget to mention “Labour Reforms”. It is also annual programmed protests by all the Trade Unions including nationwide strikes. Thereafter, everyone keep silent. All three important stake holders have accepted these as a routine & automaticone every year. As we have witnessed during the last few decades, the Central Government has not succeeded in winning over the confidence & trust of the Trade Unionsand most of the instances have succumbed to the pressure tactics by the Trade Unions due to various reasons.
Business pleads for labour reforms, but no protests whatsoever. Business, being in the global arena, in order to sustain itself, have, over a period of time, leant how to remain & grow in the Business in spite of nosupportive reforms. Businesses introduced their own reforms in terms of bringing out changes in work culture, participative & employee engagements and strategize itself towards collaboration shifting from confrontation. Business, in the global trade atmosphere asserted itself, and more importantly enormous growth in employment opportunities in the country. Now, a situation is reached, while the Government is fully aware that the Business willgo on without any reforms and the Trade Unions feel thatBusiness is “none of their business”. Trade unions never appreciated the efforts of employers in these directions.There is emotional outbursts by the Trade Unions whenever, they hear the buzz word “labour Reforms”
Let us have glance at a macro level, the changes brought out by the Central Government during the last three decades. Changes brought out are mainly addressed at employee-wellbeing & social security. Be it be enhancement of coverage of limit of coverage under PF , ESI , payment of minimum bonus even though the Employer has incurred loss, & eligibility enhancement, maternity benefits, increase in age of retirement, restrictions on flexible manpower engagements are major reforms. These are not aimed at committed improved efficiency or productivity by the Employees. So far, no reforms favouring or responding to Business needs are addressed. These reforms are one sided. But, the Trade Unions are not still satisfied and mention of the buzz word by anyone is followed by threats of agitations
What do the Trade Unions want?
Do they want absolute democracy amongst their workforce in the shop floor ? Do they want free movement without any commitment for enhancement of productivity or overall efficiency of the Organisation? Do they want to continue at the same phase &systems? Do they want periodic increases in the remuneration irrespective of the financial capacity of the Employer?
Business, herewhere, are facing these challenges for its own survival without any back up support from the Governments- Central & State on a continual manner.
Now, at last, the Central Government has announced and brining up “Labour Reforms” and as a result, Codes- Four Codes have been indicated. Code On Wages has already become a Law, but date of enforcement is yet to decide. The other three codes are before the Parliament.
Now, let us have a look at these codes at a macro level in terms of its benefits, advantages/disadvantages to both Employees & Employers.
Why the Trade Unions are up against the Central Government protesting on the Codes ?
Why should they emotionally exhort the workers against these Codes without any specific issue ?
Are they adopting “Issue based conflict” OR “Emotional based conflict”?
Emotional based conflict are flowed by ego-based, exhort for their own projection of Trade Unionism, no logic, or no legal based arguments. It is on the same lines of anopposition party in our democratic system, just opposes for everything and anything done by the elected political party.
Now, here, one can conclude that the outburst of Trade Unions on “Labour Reforms” is clearly an “Emotional based”.
In any conflict of this nature, third party intervention is the only way, but, unfortunately, the third party adopts its own diplomatic measures for various reasons. Ultimately, the Business is affected.
Can anyone take up “Labour Reforms” in post corona period?
The effects arising out of Corona, “Business” is in an ICU. Survival depends on close treatment, support & nurture, emotional relations by the interested people of the patient. Unless, the Trade Unions realise& own their responsibilities and collaborate with the Management in all its efforts, either the Business will end up in coma & perishes. Now a situation has come that the world has to live with Corona. Unless there is cultural change in “Industrial Relations”, Business will perish.
In this direction, it isvery critical & essential for employees, Unions, and the Management to closely work in harmony in collaborative spirit. Any type of discomfort, or inconvenience, lack of outputs, adherence to all strict compliances –health & safety, will have to be tolerated by both the parties’ in true spirit. No confrontation by either parties for any reason whatsoever, because the objective is to protect the Business. Employers & Trade Unions must adopt “Issue based” and resolve the conflict, no emotions on either side.
In case, every Trade Union & Employers do adopt this strategy, where is the question of “LabourReforms”?
If both partners are humane with emotional relationships, there is no question of looking into any law books. If either party opens law books for any conflicts, there cannot be any harmony.
Sri AjimPremji has recently mentioned that this is not the time to introduce any changes or any restrictions under the Labour Laws.
Legal & Management Consultant, Bangalore.
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