Labour laws, such as the Industrial Disputes Act and state Acts such as the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, compound the problems of employers seeking a legal way out of the present morass. Even generous VRS schemes have not helped restructure organisations.
The nature of coalition politics will also ensure that no radical reforms in labour legislation will materialise in the near future. Under the circumstances, a mature trade union leadership and initiative is a sine qua non for organisations to come out of the present crisis.
With the problem of mafia-controlled trade unions waiting in the wings to usurp the leadership for their short-term intereststhis includes colluding with unscrupulous owners for sale of land and closure of the industry through coercion and duressmany trade union leaders have abdicated their leadership role and remain mute spectators to the industry dying a painful death.
If trade union leaders had the courage to enter settlements to bring about rapid modernisation and enhance efficiency,
the threat of competitiveness, cost and quality problems the industry faced could have been more easily addressed.
In the changed market environment, of having to compete with countries such as China, trade unions and leaders have a very important role to play in transforming the companies they work in. They have to safeguard the interests of workers and also ensure the viability and survival of the industry they work in. It is indeed a dilemma, but it has to be resolved, if India is to leave its mark on the world economy.
R Krishna Murthy