The latest news report on Raymond informs us that the management has offered Voluntary Retirement Scheme [VRS] to all its employees and that they have ‘accepted’ it.
The total payment to employees works out to Rs 263 Crores [excluding legal dues] and the Union has collected Rs. 7 Cr. 89 Lakhs by way of donation. Each employee has paid minimum Rs. 40 Thousand to maximum Rs. 60 Thousand Rupees as donation to the union. The union led by Mr. Jitendra Joshi claimed 3% donation which has worked out to that whooping amount – Rs. 789 Lakhs!
The Union is quick to point out that it has to incur expenses for fighting court cases and that it is going to pay some amount to the 11 deceased workmen’s family out of the fund.
It is customary for the unions to charge donation which ranges between 5 to 15% of the arrears of wages arising out of a long term settlement. The Supreme Court has observed in the case of Balmer Lawrie that there is nothing wrong about it. A union is required to incur expenses towards lawyers’ fees, it has to build a strike fund etc., so it is not wrong to charge donation. That judgement was delivered in the context of charging a donation for negotiating a long term settlement.
Whether it is good to charge a fee when an establishment is closing down may be debatable, but one will have to appreciate that but for the union, the employees would not have got a good severance amount.
The problem is not about the union donation really. The problem is about what the union does with that booty! Many unions do not submit accounts so there is no check. Unions are known by the leaders’ names and that the democracy is found so wanting in their operations that it is correct to say that they are fighting against what they are practising!! Extreme autocracy! Moreover donation paying employees in such circumstances cease to be members; they go away to start a new life. This allows the union leaders to have an unchecked run; they are in actual practice not accountable to anybody!
Mr Jitendra Joshi will be well advised to publish accounts and Registrar of Trade Unions should ask such unions to publish accounts like companies do. Public accountability must be enforced.
In the meantime, Wimco has closed down its unit in Ambernath. A blue chip company of yesteryears is gone from the industrial map. Reports are that 90% of the employees have accepted VRS. Possibly the same scenario like Raymond is being replayed.
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