Tackling labour stir from HR standpoint

The agitation will cost India its sheen as an investment attraction which it has guarded since a long time.

Much has been reported about the recent protest of multitudes of garment workers on the roads of Bengaluru due to an aberration in the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) clause.

The uproar attracted the attention of the international authorities, too, over the belated seizure of the issue by the Central and state governments, squarely finding them in the eye of the chaotic situation of their making! But more needs to be expressed from a human resources (HR) perspective to be pursued in HR development principles in all spheres.

It started with the Budget proposal of taxing EPF withdrawals and traversed to restricting employees from withdrawing the employer’s contribution, raising a tempest of violence; although, both measures were rolled back later. Recently, the EPF interest rate of 8.8% has been confirmed after evoking unwarranted nationwide protests by the trade unions. These issues have rubbed salt into the wounds on the psyche of the workforce.

Nevertheless, the scar of these incidents are likely to frighten potential investors of all shades. It will cost India its sheen as an investment attraction which it has unremittingly safeguarded since a long time. It is a canary in the coal mine of HR and labour policy formulation of the government. 

The Centre has stirred the hornet’s nest with uncalled for restrictions in EPF withdrawal while there are many issues inter alia – such as retraining and forming of new skill sets for the redundant workforce, particularly in sick PSUs; overhauling the industrial dispute resolution machinery and digitising the data records of workers for pervasive usage – that could promote India into an investors’ haven, if not heaven.

The plethora of labour laws in federal India creates consternation for any new initiative in the industry by calling for judicious reforms to suit the requirements of the globalised economy. Hasty moves sans suitable orientation convert the work environs into raging conflict spots, which are exploited by external leaders under the clout of Trade Unions Act, 1926. Replacement of the dysfunctional legal framework with a dynamic legal architecture is overdue alongside a built-in liability of periodical tripartite reviews to naturally congeal it with global trends.

The Centre’s policy responses must inspire all facets of the garment industry that have faced stiffer global competition. Credit squeeze and higher interest cost in elasticity of the banks can distress the business scenario, and employees are the first victims of cost reduction.

The Centre and the states must coordinate for inclusive policy projections instead of mutually sandbagging the moves of the other. The employees must be aware of the evolving unpredictable changes in the business platform and proactively embrace the process of skill enhancement to snugly match the high demands thereof.

India cannot remain an island of its own economic activities against the blowing winds of global change. A broad ideological consensus is the order of the day resisting deceptive manoeuvres of the politically surcharged ideologues. No society will acce-pt unruly deeds and violent reactions of the employees, for it will be detrimental to their own prospects. The jurisprudential maxim of “ignorantia legis nem-inem excusat” (ignorance of law excuses no one) will establish  efficacy of the law’s long arms.

Moulding behaviour

The colonial dreadfulness of the police must be humanised by inculcating the values of human relations till the constabulary level to deal with the populace. Vigorous engagement of HR specialists, beyond internal pedagogues, for all ranks will increasingly infuse modern strategic techniques in effectively policing the modern society.

The HR officers play a vital role in fully transforming the employees to be in sync with the requirements of their governing laws. Proficient organisational Grievance Resolution Schemes will largely solve employees’ cases, while policy injunctions of the governments will be put onto the conciliatory mechanism of the labour department for needy solutions.
Entrepreneurs must bestow utmost significance on HR requ-irements, placing qualified professionals to execute the tasks normatively for legal compliance and sensible preening of the employees’ demands. HR is a specialised realm and sidestepping the counsel of HR officials will definitely spell doom for organisational growth. Restricted functional utility and using them for peripheral tasks will force their exit or set in atrophy. People management can be given a short shrift only at the peril of organisational progress. 

From elegant induction to troublesome separation thro-ugh enriched training of the human resources, maintenance of industrial peace, building lasting bridges of reciprocated trust with debriefing sessions and remaining as a change agent in all aspects are ordinarily a part of the larger professional brief of HR professionals.

They will create buffer zones and shrink the space of misunderstanding, facilitate workable solutions for organisational conflicts and stimulate purposeful covenants to uphold development of the organisations. They will entice all the players in production and services to commit inspiringly to the organisational needs and goals.

The importance of genuine retention of HR professionals cannot be overstated than it is manifestly pronounced in many conflicts like the Bengaluru garment industry imbroglio causing a huge loss to the economy.

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