General Motors was the first in recent times to suffer loss on account of labour strife. Then came the news of some rumblings at Ford Motors. Hyundai is always on the hit list of labour unions, some say very justifiably so. And yes, Air India had its share of woes. Maruti Suzuki has joined this distinguished list. The strike at Manesar by a union reportedly not even registered under the Trade Unions Act is continuing when the news last came in.
What is striking about all these ‘strikes’ is that the press tracks the developments daily. Just as the negotiations details are informed to the readers, they also cover the daily production loss. In the case of GM and Air India these losses were reported very religiously day by day. That is quite a departure from what the Press used to do just a few years ago.
The reason is easy to understand. International competition, and even domestic too in some industries is so severe that organisations can hardly afford to allow strikes to prolong into months. There was a time when workers in Mumbai consciously chose to drive autos because they never wanted to be vulnerable at the hands of labour leaders and managements which allowed the strikes and lock-outs to continue for a very long time. Reputed organisations were moving to Gujarat which offered ‘industrial peace.’ Those days are over; we now are witnessing short period agitations.
What is getting missed out in this development is that multiplicity of unions is creating havoc. Contract labour is an area that is left completely unattended. Timid Government is not willing or perhaps unable to act on the basic malaise that affects Industrial Relations.
Or perhaps they have struck it off their agenda!