Friday, December 11, 2009

You will kill us....

I was discussing with union committee members about unnecessary breaks, workers were taking for tea and breakfast. It was a practice for last 20 years in the company. If it is a long practice, then it is a custom and you can not break the customs.

It was affecting the productivity. The breaks would last almost 15-25 minutes. They were taking their breakfast and snacks in canteen. The newly formed joint venture management was very concern about the cost and productivity. They gave the mandate to stop the breaks and continue the operations during breaks also. But as usual union was not ready for this. What’s about our hunger? Million dollar question!

“You want to kill us by not allowing to take breaks.” One of the committee members blasted on me. “Cool, we don’t want to kill you. You take your breakfast and snacks, but not in canteen. I will arrange to supply it on shop floor.” Have you seen in the world, where union members easily agreed on the proposal of management? They also didn’t. The discussion went on and on.

I again called them for the discussion. They also recognized that they can’t pull it long time. “Ok, agreed, then, give us this all free.”

I reported it to my CEO. He was very good human being and humble man. He told,”Ok, we will supply it free of cost. How much they will eat?”

“Sir, don’t do it, we will face another issue. Let’s not give anything free.” I explained why we should not give it free. At last I suggested, “Sir at least we will supply limited snacks and tea”. “Don’t worry, how much the person can eat? They will be bored with unlimited food.”

Next day, as per the agreement with union, I put the notice of stopping breaks for snacks and tea. “Workmen will not go to the canteen for their snacks; the same will be supplied to the shop floor. The operations of the machine should not be affected and production should continue uninterrupted.”

Next morning, Shetty, our canteen contractor was waiting for me. He was worried. “Sir, they are not human beings.”
“What’s happened?” I asked.
“They are neither ghost, ghosts don’t eat so much”. Shetty replied.
I understood the problem.

“One missal with four Paav, 2 Idalis, 4 eggs, one plate Farsan, 4 biscuits, 2 teas, sir all this per workman.”

From that day workmen stopped taking lunch or their regular meal. We all were worried not only due to the additional cost of snacks, but for their health.

After six months we concluded it will not work, no it should not work. Again one round of discussion with union members started. This time the discussion was for supplying limited snacks on shop floor.

"Nothing comes free in this world. Before taking any decision, understand your workforce better."


Anonymous said...

I dont understand what is wrong there in providing free food if cost is OK for management?

Many companies provide tea- coffee in office, some IT companies provide cookies or fruits too. They must have same experience at start, but it normalizes afterwords.

Basically people need some change in their stale work and try to find out by going out for tea- coffee outside(Additionally smoking and gossyping too.. :))
They manage all that in working hours and show others how we work more than those who go home early(means on time)!

Leave all those things aside and just talk about work, performance and efficiency. A person will automatically avoid timepass if he feel that his time in the office is utilized properly and he is getting returns for that. Let those ppl have access to such facilities, which can increase his efficiency.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a typical IR case scenario where Unions / workers are involved. Union will always make it melodramatic / sensational to further negotiate on the matter. Giving free is good to start, as you get your 25 mins of production time after which you are re-negotiate on limited snacks instead of free snacks.

However what was the outcome of second round of negotiations ? Keep posted.

Michael Nicholas said...

Dear Mr. Vinod,

I had the similar situation. But i literally fought with the management not to give snacks free of cost. The Union struck the work and even the matter turned out to be an ID. But I didnt budge ( people called me an arrogant including my Boss). I told the Union that their demand was not a justifiable one and they themselves realised and suggested to supply any snacks - in two nos with a cup of tea. This practice is going for the past 12 yrs. Any issued related to food always appears to be sensitive but it is better if you allow it to go on. It will subside as days go on. Cos one cannot satisfy the employees especially in these sort of issues.

Thanks and kind regards
Michael Nicholas
Head Personnel & Legal

Madhu.T.K said...

It is very difficult to change a favourable condition of service (it should not be taken as service condition as both the terms are different) If they have been enjoying 25 minutes tea break, 1 hour lunch break and yet another 25 minutes for evening tea every day, that might have become a service condition by practice. For changing the same, it may even require notice as required u/s 9A of the ID Act!

Discussing with trade union on the issue is yet another hurdle which may even waste a substantial operational time. If instead of incurring cost by way of tea and snacks if you introduce a system of target incentive, that would be cheaper from your side and you can at least ensure uninterrupted production and the workers may start feeling about time wasted if they start earning for the time spent.



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