A union is a continuous, long-term association of employees, formed and maintained for a specific purpose of advancing and protecting the interest of its members in their working relationship.
Unions are here to stay, and it is necessary for the employer to establish amicable relations with the unions. The purpose of unions is not to fight with the management, but to improve quality of life and work. The employer tends to look upon labour as a commodity. Unions are a response to this ruthless approach.
The right to organise or form a union is not only natural, but a fundamental right of the workers/employees as guaranteed by the Constitution. The union is a natural protective agency against arbitrary, unjust or mistaken decisions.
When employees want an outside union to represent them is their choice and responsibility. The employer is not justified in interfering. An outsider will not be able to get a following unless there is a real grievance somewhere.
When unions resort to agitational methods such as demonstration, work to rule and non-cooperation, the validity or legality of these actions called for can only be known in the light of the particular circumstances. In such situations, the employer should appreciate the utility of dialogue and negotiation.
The most important quality in an HR executive is his capacity for dealing with problems with initiative, energy and imagination. He must have a likeable temperament. He should take interest in others’ problems, inspire confidence and have a sense of fair play. He should devise plans objectively so that he can gain support for his proposals, both from superiors and subordinates.
Workers do not organise unless there is a real ‘pinch’ somewhere. Do not in any way interfere, threaten or try to influence either the workers’ decision to form a union, or any individual worker’s decision to join or not to join.
Some managements have attempted to set up rival employees’ unions. This is not only unjust but invariably aggravates the situation. Even when organising activities are in progress, there should be no abdication on the management’s part. Organising efforts should not interfere with work, and managements should see that work goes on as usual.
DIALOGUE IN CRISIS
If the situation leads to ‘go slow’, ‘work to rule’, strike and the like, the validity of the action called for will only be known in the light of the particular circumstances. Even here, however, the HR executive should appreciate the utility of dialogue, negotiation and bargaining.
Few workers want strikes. Few can afford strikes, more particularly in these days when the Supreme Court has held that no wages will be payable even when the strike is legal and justified.
The violence at Maruti could have been avoided if the management had shown the wisdom to assess the atmosphere. HR executives of the company turned a blind eye to the situation. The violence of July 18 could have been avoided, had HR executives shown more understanding and tact.
(The author is an advocate.)