The Jet pilots’ strike is over. The outcome was very predictable. For all students of Industrial Relations, some lessons are retold.
Lesson 1: Nobody takes an extreme step of strike just because they can ‘afford’ it.
One cannot accuse pilots of being trigger happy. In fact, Naresh Goyal must be credited with the singular achievement of bringing in union by his arbitrary leadership style. In today’s world nobody forms a union unless there is extreme and intolerable level of arbitrariness. A retail chain saw emergence of a union, when jobs were going a plenty, about three years ago, because a senior manager threatened an employee with summary dismissal. Newspapers are saying that there is something wrong about the way Human Resource policies and decision are made in Jet Airways. The observers’ conclusions are supported by the behaviour of Naresh Goyal, the Chairman of Jet. He has by now antagonised the staff [by sacking them and reinstating them], managers [by saying that they had acted on their own without his knowledge in the previous episode] and now the pilots! I wonder who would have retained his position as Chairman of any organisation unless of course you are Naresh Goyal for whom there is obviously no ‘performance pressure’!!
Lesson 2: Once a union is formed it is difficult to disband it, the best way is to have dialogue in good faith with employees all the time.
Obviously a via media is found in the Jet episode by constituting a committee, but it will be under pressure to act fair and be seen as fair. In other words, the committee will do what should have been done by the management of Jet Airways in the first place. The committee will constantly work under watchful eye of the ‘ghost’ of a union. No choice. Probably appeasement will follow. Then Pilots will win. Goyal would have done well to have a clean arrangement with them.
Lesson 3: Sabre rattling is okay in negotiations, but not in press!
I was under mistaken belief that high profile executives like Naresh Goyal are trained on how to handle the press. No evidence of it. It is not okay [I am not sure, but may be perhaps!] to call somebody terrorist even in a negotiation meeting but doing it in public [and not even denying it!] to the key employees called pilots is simply ridiculous. I am sure that this incident will be quoted by trainers for next decade informing their clients on how not to handle press! Such ‘mahavakyams’ have a tendency to remain lodged in people’s mind for decades! Goyal may have reached an agreement but how is he going to recover image of his management within the organisation as well as among public in general is a big question.
Lesson 4: Industrial Relations strife is a game of chess!
It is a very expensive game!! If one is drawn into it, he must see a few steps ahead and show statesmanship. Choosing disagreements over disagreeable disposition, not giving in to provocations but escalating or diffusing conflict at the opportune moment, are some basic and elementary tactics of winning it.
Hopefully Jet would have learnt its lessons. Around the time the settlement was worked out, we also watched Serena quarrelling with line judge about the implementation of the ‘foot fault’ rule. She lost the point and the match. And she is facing a heavy financial penalty.
That is the one line story of Jet Airways, was it not, Mr. Naresh Goyal?