The deliberate and emergent strategy must be understood in the context of industrial relations, because it takes two to tango in this field of management. The success or failure of the industrial relations strategy depends heavily on the ability of management and employees both to influence each other. Strategy implementation is very often understood as a unidirectional exercise. In industrial relations emotions often run high creating huge road blocks. Building consensus is nowhere as important as in industrial relations.
A. Tata Steel:
Tata Steel has gone through its share of business adversities. While they have modernised the plant from time and again, they had to downsize it too. There is a substantial reduction in the number of employees – from 75000 to 35000. The record of industrial relations should be seen against this backdrop. In the last 75 years, there has been not a single day lost to strike!
b. Southwest expects the unions to have an intense loyalty to the company and a feeling of ownership. Therefore, when negotiating with the unions, there is an anticipation they will act reasonably. Due to the fact Southwest employees have chosen to belong to six different unions, there is anticipation the other unions will help ensure none of their number make excessive demands.
In 1991, the Company launched their mission and vision statements to the employees. This was in response to a perceived need among the employees to know what the company’s basic beliefs are and the direction the company is heading. Both the Company and Union re-affirmed their full commitment to the Shared Industrial Relations Vision at a Conference held on 24 September 1999.
To my mind Marico and Excel industries seem to have taken ‘Unitarist’ view of the industrial relations. Marico experimented with very innovative practices when they set up a factory at Kanjikode in Kerala. No employee [blue collar employees included] was required to punch card or use access card for marking attendance. When they availed leave they were expected to apply for it, otherwise they were presumed to be present. A clear statement of trust it is. Many companies adopt this practice only for their managerial staff. In another interesting practice, Marico used ‘jury’ to decide if an employee was guilty of indiscipline. The jury comprise of equal number of managers, supervisors and blue collar employees. This is as far as an organisation can go to ensure fairness. Contrast this with the practice in organisations where a workman knows that he is on his way out if he is issued charge-sheet. So adversarial!
When the workers of Patancheru plant [near Hyderabad] formed a union, the management
of Asian Paints invited the President of the union formally for a discussion, explained the policies of the company. Inviting the President, an external leader, went a long way on setting a positive tone for industrial relations.
In his book Beyond Contract (1974) Alan Fox added a third conceptual possibility, the ‘radical’ frame of reference, from the perspective of which the employment relationship is an entirely illegitimate relationship which exists solely to satisfy the interests of the dominant party.’
Firstly what view leadership takes of the relationship matters. It gives character to the relationship. Those who take Unitarist or Pluralist views will succeed in the long run. Since leadership changes not infrequently, a safe guard is provided in the policy of the organisation. Unfortunately, it is rare to find organisations declaring their ER policy upfront.