Industrial Relations And Labour Laws
Vivian Chandrashekar
Aast. Gen. Manager-hr
Recruitment/talent Acquisition, Career Counselling
+2 Others

We are facing almost every day some issue or other being raised by union and if not fulfilled they threaten to stop the plant. All employees are with the union and there are some instances of violence also. The union is supported by local MLA and police does not even take our complaint.
The show cause notices and warning letters are being refused by employees and when sent to home address, the management does not get any reply.
What are your suggestions to control this union.

From India, Chennai
The trade union militancy should be handled very carefully. This type of illegal acts by members of the trade union is seen in companies where the leaders themselves are immature and are not in line with the objectives of the trade union. When the President/ Gen. Secretary of the Union is a member of Assembly or Parliament, the situation becomes very sensitive.

There are a lot of strategies used to handle such situation and the members of this site are very good in describing how the situation should be handled. Though giving advice on such matters is very easy, its enforcement or implementation is difficult and is with us only. Still many suggestions can be analysed in the light of your actual scenario and try it.

In a militant trade union situation like that of yours the first thing I would suggest is to let the employees go for strike for a few days or even for a few weeks. If you initiate a disciplinary action against a leader of the trade union (who is also an employee) for any act of misconduct from his side, the members will call for a strike. When they stop work, they will reasonable expect that you will call them for a meeting. But instead of calling them for meeting, declare the strike as illegal quoting the relevant clauses of your Standing Orders or Industrial Disputes Act and put your findings of the strike in the leading news papers. Also inform the Labour department of the illegal strike.

During this time, if you are able to get mandates from some employees who are very junior with respect to date of joining/ probationers/ who are not directly involved or weak in trade union involvement that they were forced to participate in the strike by intimidation by the other striking persons, then that will be good. That can be used against the striking employees.

A meeting with the trade union can be announced only if they stop strike. Also involve the Labour department in the conciliation proceedings. Since an MLA is involved, it will always be in favour of the employees, but you will get an opportunity to highlight the goondaism or arrogance of the trade union members and the loss caused to the company due to their attitude. If any settlement arises in the course of conciliation, naturally, we can include the condition that in future the employees will adhere to the rules of the company and will maintain decorum.

Media can also play a vital role in your fight against the unfair practices of the trade union. You should be very specific about the execution part. I understand that you might have held a lot of formal and informal meetings with your employees and their trade union leaders. Therefore, holding another meeting without Labour Officer or any conciliation person out side the company would be fruitful. Therefore, if the management agrees that let the plant be closed for a few weeks, I would suggest that we should allow them to strike and lose their wages.

I would request others who have faced similar situation to put insights on this issue.



From India, Kannur
You have not mentioned the area and the number of employees and the nature of industry.
There are so many factors for union militancy
1. Wage level and the disparity between your wage level and the levels in industries around
2. Work nature
3. Qualification/age mix/
4. Your approach to Union
5. Top Managements approach to union
6. Affiliation to union and affiliation to Political Party
7. Experience of the External Leader
8. Age of the Factory and working conditions inside
9. Sometimes, community based unions
10 Intra union rivalry
Study these aspects. There is no theoretical solution .Study these factors and analyse whether any of these factors contribute towards militancy. Based on your analysis, work out a methodology

From India, Chennai
Your use of words like 'arrogant' and 'immature' somehow shows that you have deep prejudices against the union. Mr. Madhu's advice to you is very dangerous. I would suggest you to take what Mr. Sivasankaran has written seriously and approach a 'mature' human resource consultant.
From India, Bangalore
I agree with T.Sivasankaran, that there is no ready made solution to problems that are the result of collective actions.
My point is that without socio-economic analysis of the collective force's, working against the organizations objectives, any actions ultimate outcome will be of lesser value for those involved.
Corporate image is an other area one should always keep in mind when dealing with collectivity.Unless until the peoples involved in functioning of an organization realize that they are working for common cause differences in opinion if handled casually will lead to militancy.
In my view convincing is the best policy. Militancy is the effect, causes are much deeper.
1. First establish your organizations credibility as worker friendly in workers eye.
2. Be transparent in dealings when dealing with unions.
3. Every deal must be inked before it goes public.

From India, Bangalore
Dear Mr.Shivashankar,

You have to analyse the cause for formation of the union. As indicated by Mr.Sivasankaran there could be several reasons

1) Wage parity/ benefits extended for Confirmed and Contract workers.

2) Methodology of handling of workers by the superiors (Sometimes the workers are let loose by a Manager who is unwilling to confront them and when yet another Manager who takes charge tries to discipline them he faces stiff resistance). Has there been a change in the Manager managing the workers.

In some instances we have come across industries wherein you will observe workers reading newspapers, chatting, conversing over their mobile phones while on duty. When one tries to curb these practices overnight then it sets off a spark.

3) Have you modified their working conditions? (Permission, Late coming grace time etc.,)

4) In some instances office bearers of the union carryout union activities inside the factory such as distributing pamphlets, writing slogans against the management etc and refrain from carrying out the work. These are considered as misconducts if you listed these in your certified standing orders.

I agree that it will be agonising to handle such union activities. Be patient, identify loyal workers through informal channels and find out the brain behind these militant activities and the cause for such an attitude. Once you have identified the real cause arriving at an amicable solution may not take a long time. You can informally initiate the intentions of the management through the same channel without publicising too much. Over few weeks you will find that the heat will dissipate as loyal workers will try and persuade co workers to refrain from going against the management.

Have a grievance redressal machinery wherein legitimate grievances are sorted out on a fast track. Once the workmen see your genuine concern they will cross over.

As you walk through the shopfloor you will find different category of workers

a) Some will try to raise their voice before you and vociferously place their views. (They try to show their weight before their co workers)

b) Some others will place their views supporting the views of the workers cited in a) above when other workers are not around on a low tone. This category is quite deceptive and dangerous and cannot be depended upon.

c) Some others will discreetly tail you and place their views on a low tone when other workers are not around and will also try to find out your reaction to their views. Their body language will indicate anxiety, security of job etc. These workers generally turn out to be your informal channel.

I was advised by one of the consultants to minimise the issue of charge sheets. He quoted charge sheets if issued constantly over a period becomes "CHAR SHEETS" (FOUR SHEETS OF PAPER) and will loose its value. May be this has happened in your case.

If you have production norms find out whether they fulfill the norms. If they are unable to achieve it, analyse the causes for not achieving it (Man, Material, Method, Machines). If the cause is constantly due to Man then address the issue through informal channels.

IR is like fragile glass tumbler you need to handle it carefully you can neither crush it nor hold it loose and allow it to slip and fall down.

We share our views based on our past experience but each situation is different. You will appreciate that the same solution does not work out for different situations.


From India, Madras
Mr. Sivashankarcj,
Let me try to simplify your problem.
1. Meet and have good contact with MLA and Police. Explain what will happen if there is a strike.
2. Have a core leaders meeting along with MLA, explain what will happen.
3. Suspend few employee's after taking consent from MLA and ensure the factory run smoothly by keeping the striking workman outside.
Mr. Kannan advised you how to analysis and take corrective step -
Mr. Sanjeev.Saxaina is said about proactive management
Mr. T. Shivasankaran is given you how to plan
Mr. Madhu is given you strategy - use it as last resort if nothing works out.
Vivian Chandrashekar

From India, Bangalore
There are a lot of strategies to deal with such situation but all such strategies are just in paper or in the PPts of experts and consultants but will not work in a situation like this. As already pointed out by me most of these suggestions will not work on an actual practical situation. Also if my suggestion seems to be dangerous, please tell us what is the course of action which will solve this problem. Remember that the members of the trade union in this case is very immature ( I believe, we all have to believe what is posted) and the management and Hr have done their best to make bring them in main stream, but failed. Moreover, the person who is expected to teach them the objectives of trade union, the president/ Gen Secretary himself is immature.

From India, Kannur
Your suggestion is excellent but done as a last resort if other strategies don't work. In Kerala where most of communist union dominate, this strategy will work. It is order of the day in some state. But rest of India, the union is not so strong but can be controlled with educating the workmen about pros and cons. Your line of thinking is perfectly fine.

From India, Bangalore
Thank you all for the suggestions. Every thing has happened so fast that now the plant has been stopped by the union and they are not allowing the plant to be restarted. Everybody comes to work but they attend the duty in such a way that always a one or two key member is missing from the shift so the plant could not be started.

We tried to depute from other plants to start the plant but they have threatened them also and one person from other plant was beaten also. We have filed a police complaint but the employee who was beaten is fearing to file FIR. But still we have approached police to arrest the main person so that he can be terminated.

As rightly pointed out implementation is very difficult as there is always danger of senior people getting man handled.

The plant is stopped from 16th April. We do not want to pay anybody. What we should do.

I am proworker always but this site has forced me to change the approach.

The key issue is increment which we informed that we will not be able to give due to losses. But with lot of persuation we were able to get approval from management for 3% but this was also refused by workers.

From India, Chennai

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