Jag Venugopal's Blog

July 31, 2012

Is a union such a bad thing after all?

Filed under: Project Management — Jag @ 6:23 am

There was a very unfortunate incident in India recently where workers of its biggest automobile company (Maruti, a Suzuki subsidiary) rioted inside the factory, set fire to a portion of it, killed a manager and maimed countless others. I have never heard of workers rioting so badly in a very long time. Not in the new India.

Interestingly, this very same factory had experienced strikes and labor unrest last year. And while that episode was free of violence, Maruti bought out the union leaders, disbanded the union and formed a new one.

I’m speculating that the problem with Maruti is that in the absence of a mature union, there is no one to represent the workers, channel their grievances, find an acceptable solution and hold them to an agreement. Unions exercise some level of leadership over the workers, who listen to their union bosses. In the absence of an established union, anarchy prevails, with complete and total lack of discipline.

A legitimate union, with an official hierarchy, processes and procedures, affiliated with one of the national trade union federations, may not be to Maruti’s liking. But it may be just the thing to ensure that such terrible incidents do not recur.

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