Apropos R Gopalakrishnan’s article “The next leadership challenge: employee engagement” (August 2), I would like to add that the causes of employee discontent and subsequent revolt are not so difficult to spot. History shows labour turmoil and social unrest are mostly the result of perceived unequal treatment and unfair dispensation of rewards. Searching for sophisticated answers is, therefore, a fruitless and misleading exercise.
This malaise is rampant everywhere. In government offices, for example, low-skilled jobs like driving, cleaning and sanitation are outsourced. Such contract workers are often paid much less than the prescribed minimum wage. Further, authorities routinely overlook workers’ statutory rights such as compulsory EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund) contributions, ESI (Employees’ State Insurance) benefits, maternity leave and so on.
Contract workers are at the mercy of their contractors and are also constantly exposed to fellow permanent workers doing similar work but being paid handsomely and enjoying all social security benefits. The resultant dissatisfaction is bound to erupt. The Manesar incident had its roots in the glaring disparities in wages and benefits between the plant’s contract workers and permanent workers. How this growing discontent escaped the management’s notice despite repeated protests by the workers defies logic. Perhaps the unrelenting Japanese work ethos and imposition of harsh disciplining methods were the tipping point.
More Manesars are lurking in all such establishments, whether private or publicly owned. Their respective managements must address the root cause and take steps to bridge income disparity among workers. It is not a leadership challenge but a human relations failure in that it upsets the principles of natural justice.
Kalpana Dube Lucknow
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