Dialogue is The Key: Rajeev Dubey

Reproduced below is the Speech of Mr Rajeev Dubey, President – Group HR & Aftermarket Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra at the recently concluded EFI seminar on Industrial Relations. He is also the Chairman of Employers Federation of India.

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
I believe that while we have a complex situation, it can actually be used as a great opportunity to revisit many old paradigms and create a platform where the various stakeholders i.e. employers, employees, government, media and civil society, get together to create an ecosystem which is competitive, fair and inclusive.  These three words need to be our North Star – competitive, fair and inclusive.
It is my firm conviction that if:
  • we focus on the right questions
  • approach the problem with an open mind and the determination to find solutions,
  • focus on unleashing the potential of the workforce, rather than just short-term labour arbitrage,
we can infact herald a new era of industrial relations which will be characterized by innovation, productivity and growth.
The key is for all stakeholders to adopt a win-win approach, understand each others points of view and be willing to give and take. Dialogueprovides the key to the kingdom and if there is one mechanism that we need to mine deep and wide, it is the process of dialogue.  Several like-minded industry associations namely FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM, EFI, NHRDN, AIOE, SCOPE and NIPM have recently come together on a common platform to suggest a practical and acceptable plan of action for the creation a violence free workplace that will also be competitive, fair and inclusive.  Five focus areas have been identified, and we hope to come up with a practical course of action that we will then discuss with trade unions, government and civil society over the next few months.
These five focus areas, which should apply to manufacturing & services sectors, are:
1) To co-create a Code or Charter of Behaviour which sets out voluntary guidelines for acceptable behaviour.  The basic philosophy is that each of the stakeholders takes responsibility instead of just pointing fingers.
2) On a continuing basis have conferences and workshops across the Country which bring together employers, workers, trade unions and governments to have a social dialogue on the proposed Code of Behaviour
3) Bring industrial relations onto the radar screen of top management and the Board
4) Focus on capability building and education
5) Evolve guidelines for the atypical workforce, including contract labour.
Even as we attempt this gigantic transformation of mindsets and behaviour, which will be a long term process, we certainly need to revisit labour laws and practices, which are an important piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
The objectives with which labour laws were enacted were indeed laudable, given the context of that time, when the State had to intervene to put in place safeguards for labour. However, over a period of time, these safeguards have often given rise to undue harassment and corruption. While those violating the spirit of the law need to be brought to book, often law abiding organizations also get targeted for the most trivial reasons like non-display of some notices, human errors in returns and registers, occasional delays in remittances or submission of forms etc. This approach not only deviates from the very purpose for which the laws were created, but by focusing only on the organized sector, leaves the large workforce in the unorganized sector totally unprotected.
We particularly need to look at aspects of the Contract Labour Act and Industrial Disputes act and make modifications that will allow flexibility to take into account changing levels of demand, while at the same time ensuring fairness. I will not go into chapter and verse, the details are well known and I will not add anything by repeating them. Suffice it to say that in addition to these two major Acts, we also need to look both at the contents and implementation of various other laws in light of the overall objective of ensuring competitiveness, fairness and inclusion. These include theFactories Act, 1948, the Shops and Establishments Act, the Employees State Insurance Act, Minimum Wages Act, the Apprentices Act, the Trade Unions Act, the Building and Construction Workers Actetc.
I am not here to hold a brief for all employers. There may be some who do things that are clearly unacceptable and need to change their ways.  But equally, the vast majority of employers would like to work within a framework of principles and values and be genuinely interested in unleashing the human potential of the workers in the pursuit of creating long term competitive advantage, where employers and workmen interact and engage with each other in their multiple roles and not just as “productive resources.”  This requires that both sides
·                 Be willing to “listen” and provide “psychological air.” especially to the younger work force.
·                 Keep looking for third alternatives through openness and dialogue.
·                 Believe in the power of win-win solutions rather than win-lose conflicts.
·                 Always remember to keep channels of communication open, especially during periods of  
           confrontation / strife. 
·                 Avoid taking positions that are “irreversible” and, finally,
·                 Believe in ourselves – That we can bring about large change by working on many small            changes.
At the end of the day, it is about people engaging with each other, wanting to make a difference, having a passionate desire to create a better world, staying the course and being prepared to run the marathon.
One can argue that all this is a Utopian dream, and far removed from the harsh realities of the workplace. May be so, but any transformation starts with a dream, This will be a departure from the past and there will certainly be a risk of failure. But, as the old saying goes “nothing risked, nothing gained”.
In conclusion, at the risk of sounding poetic, India stands ready to go into the next orbit which can remove poverty, hunger and disease for millions of our people.  The decisions we take could either convert that potential into a reality, or a disaster.  We owe it to ourselves, our constituents and future generations to move ahead with wisdom and foresight.
I am sure that is how it will be.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your patient hearing.