Novel Ways Of Nalco Employees

Updated: Sep 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
Life has turned topsy-turvy for employees of the Orissa-based National Aluminium Co Ltd (Nalco) ever since the Union government put it on the for sale list in April this year. Now, even as a host of international big names have submitted expressions of interest for Nalco, personnel managers are reporting strange phenomena: employees at head office are lobbying for transfers to mines or smelters.

Yet others are grabbing the voluntary retirement scheme, which had drawn a lukewarm response when it opened in 1999. And some have even started businesses even as they hang on to their jobs.

Be it the corporate head office at Bhubaneswar, or the mining and refinery site at Damanjodi, or the smelter and captive power plant site at Angul, panic prevails. Employees are seen huddled in rooms and canteens, discussing their career plans.

They spend most of their spare time scanning newspaper reports on Nalcos privatisation and trying to figure out which company has the best chance of becoming a strategic partner.

Nalcos employees, with an average pay packet of Rs 20,000 a month, are not only considered to be the elite workforce in Orissa but also have been the most revered customers in the market place of a poor state.

It is the Nalco people who own the most trendy houses, drive the most flashy cars, and are the privileged members of the elite clubs.

As employees, they are the most pampered lot in the public sector workforce. A generous company has provided them almost everything free housing, furnishing, clothes, medical expenses, among others. For the things that it doesnt provide free, the company gives soft loans.

Nalco, which has one of the best operating parameters in its industry, can afford to do so. Its net profit hovers around Rs 500 crore a year (Rs 511 crore in 2000, Rs 656 crore in 2001, and Rs 407 crore in 2002).

Productivity is 35 tonne per annum per employee, against private sector Hindalcos 28 tonnes, Indals 11 tonnes and Balcos 7.5 tonnes. The problem we are now facing is something which we had not been taught in the industrial relation classes. Till a few months back we were under pressure from the employees working at sites at Damanjodi and Angul for a transfer to the corporate head office. But, now the employees at corporate head office are lobbying hard to get a transfer to either Damanjodi or Angul, a senior official in the personnel department said.

Knowing well that a new management will first strike at staff sitting at the corporate head office, the employees want to hide themselves in the activity of the plant sites.

Buckling under pressure, the personnel department prepared a list of 40 employees for transfer to Damonjod and Angul. But it faced resistance from those at the sites.

Employees unions at Damanjodi and Angul have opposed the move, and say that any increase in headcount will make them the target of job cuts. Nalco has around 538 people at the head office, 2,231 at the bauxite mines, 2,509 at the smelter and 1,395 at Angul. Other employees are scattered throughout the country at its offices. It also has around 1,200 unskilled employees.

Till April, this year there had been few takers for the VRS introduced by Nalco in 1999. Since then, there has been a mad rush for the separation scheme. In the three years since 1999, only 59 people opted for VRS. But, between April 1 and August 31 this year, 66 persons 21 executives and 45 non-executives have opted for the scheme. And the personnel department is receiving 12 applications on an average a week.

Even officials of the rank of executive director, general manager and deputy general manager rank have offered to quit.

The production director, Mr SB Nayak, who had two months to complete his tenure as director and two years to retire from service, has resigned. He had been with Nalco for 20 years. Nayak is joining Sterlite Industries as its advisor (aluminium).

Mr RC Mohanty, executive director for safety, health and environment, who had two more years to retire, has offered to take VRS. Others in the queue: the GM (smelter), Mr DK Singh, the DGM of International Aluminium Products Ltd, Mr Benudhar Biswal, the GM vigilance, Mr B Mishra and the GM of IAPL, Mr BK Moharana.

Nobody knows what will be the VRS package offered by the private management after NALCOs privatisation, says a senior executive who quit recently. So it is better to take the package offered by the PSU than a private management.

The Nalco VRS offers two months salary (basic plus DA) for each completed year in service besides the unavailed leave, the gratuity and provident fund. Persons above 55 years of age opting for VRS will also get the post-retirement medical facilities.

With the job in Nalco becoming shaky, several employees have started small businesses like running cybercafe, medicine shops, departmental stores. In Angul, some of the employees have taken to truck business in the names of their family members.