Sunday, January 31, 2021

It's not always about power

Last week one of the former union committee members working in my one of the earlier organizations called me. We used to call him DC that time. We reconnected on Facebook, exchanged numbers and we got reconnected. He is retired now. During the discussion we discussed our old days. We recollected our memories about the organization. He was very aggressive and one of the strong members of the union. The union was affiliated to the strong political party. The central union had assigned one of the secretaries to the unit of our factory. He was an uneducated greedy chap always expecting gratification in exchange of maintaining the better industrial relations. However, as a multinational company, we had a code of conduct and it was not possible to entertain him. Good part was our workmen were cooperative though they were resistant to the changes and new practices. 

During this period, I was using the framework called CCDP technique, which means Culture, Communication, Directions and Power. (I have explained the framework during one of the panel discussions. Please read the report and the framework). I had presented this framework along with actions and results the organization got in one of the conferences in 2002 and it was recognised very well.

DC was committed to the workmen’s cause. Other members used to put him in front for the confrontation. He was genuine and spontaneous but non-political. Sometimes your good character is the weakness in some circumstances. Because of his nature he was always on my radar.

During 2003, the central body was sacked by the party supremo. New body was inducted. Our local union unit also got a new secretary to coordinate. We decided to give the presentation to the central body about the organization, challenges we were facing, the resistance of workmen while implementing new initiatives etc. We also wanted to give the economic challenges, cost movement of raw material and why we need to be productive and capable. Our sourcing head, Pankaj, supported a lot to make the story convincing.

Before starting the meeting, DC stood up and asked the permission from the President and Secretary to address his grievance. I thought now, DC is going to derail the discussion.

He said, “Bidwaik Saheb, (sir) has not consulted us while making the presentation and we as a committee member are not aware about what he is going to present. Hence, we will not agree on anything, what he is presenting.”

The President of the central body just said, “Let him present. We will see later what to do with that.”

I put my points on behalf of the management. After the presentation, the president asked DC, “What is wrong in this presentation? He presented the data and facts. It is good to know the organization, the story they have. If you have better arguments let's discuss this.”

DC got upset but I was relieved by the response of the central body. It made our job easy to engage them further. However convincing DC was a major challenge. Transparency and genuine interest in the person make your job easy. I did the same. I was always open with committee members, afterall they were our employees. I was educating them about the consequences of their actions. I could implement a lot of change management initiatives afterward because of their support.  

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)    

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkart and BookGanga 
(Income from books is donated to the NGO which works for orphans, street children & abandoned elders)

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Anecdote of joining the new company

I was standing in the balcony of the flat in the colony built by the company. I was a bachelor. The flat was too big for me. It was a beautiful colony on the riverbank of river Kundalini near a small village at Roha, Raigad. 

I was hired to head the Plant HR of a newly formed joint venture company. Indian company became MNC immediately after JV was declared. I was young, dynamic and in my thirties. Next day was my formal joining in the company. Company wanted somebody young, energetic and with progressive mindset handling both Industrial Relations and Human Resource function at the plant level. The union was affiliated to the regional saffron political party. Task given to me was to implement the global productivity and HR practices. Of course, this opportunity was great, and I was lucky to get it at that age.

That was a new town for me, however I was happy that I had a great opportunity which would keep me engaged for a few years. 

In front of my flat there was a lawn and big ground with big palm trees around it. Few children were playing there. Few of them suddenly saw me and waved their hands towards me. I reciprocated the same. 

Next day, I was waiting for the company car which was supposed to pick me up for the factory. The distance from the colony and factory was hardly 4 km. While I was waiting, one of the employees came towards me, introduced himself. After exchanging greetings, he asked me. “Are you closed to any board member?” 

“No, why?” I replied. 

“I thought so.” He replied. 

Meanwhile, I rushed towards the car. His question started cropping in my mind. Why did he ask the question? What makes him believe that I am closed to board members?”      

Next day during the orientation, I was introduced to the Production Head. After the formal discussion about his function and his challenges, we took the break for lunch. We started discussion on other topics like weather, places to see in the new town, beaches around the place, family etc. He had a daughter which was in 7th standard and son in 9th standard. Then he shared the anecdote about me. He told me that I was in a discussion for the last few days after my organizational announcement and people had created a lot of stories around me.   

The previous day, While I was in the balcony, his daughter and a few children saw me. She pointed the finger towards me and told the other children, “New HR Head, Mr. Bidwaik and family have arrived perhaps. See his son standing in the balcony.”   

Announcement of my joining was already done in the organization. Most of the employees were aware that some, Mr. Vinod Bidwaik is joining the organization. They were curious to know me. Everybody had constructed my image in their mind based on their previous experience. 

My predecessor was an ex-navy officer. He had put down his papers after the company decided to enter the joint venture of a one-time successful company in reinforced rubber compounding products. 

Everybody was thinking that the new HR head must be very senior, perhaps in fifties like earlier managers, however when they saw the young lad of 29 years, they could not believe that their HR Manager is so young. I got the answer why that employee asked me the question about my relations with the board member. He could not digest that the HR head is so young. Perhaps he thought that I must be the relative of one of the board members, that’s why I was hired to lead the HR function of such a big plant.

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)    

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkart and BookGanga 

(Income from books is donated to the NGO which works for orphans, street children & abandoned elders)

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Chotu, child labour and theft

I had just started my career. I used to travel by bus to the office from my home which was in another town near the industrial area. Every day I had to rush to catch the crowded bus.  

That day was also a busy day. I had to collect some documents from one of the government offices before going to my office.  I saw the bus was approaching the bus stand, I wanted to catch it fast. The child working in the small restaurant nearby came in front of me suddenly. He had tea glasses in a tea glass holder. He could not control and colluded with me. The glasses fell down. For a moment a loud noise reverberated in my ears. We, who walk on the tick of the clock, sometimes don’t want to waste the time. I didn’t pay attention to that kid. I thought I didn't have that much time. 

I looked back for a moment; the boy was standing muttering something. He must be cursing me. It wasn't his fault! I stumbled for a moment. The crowd standing next to me was attracted to me. One of them replied, “In such situations, it is good to ignore and walk straight ahead, you don’t have to look back.” He spoke sarcastically. I then proceeded straight, just as fast, unmoved. All of the above happened in a matter of seconds. I caught a bus and sat comfortably on the seat. When I looked out the window, the kid was carrying another glass container.

The bus started to move, the cold breeze from the window began to flow. I shut down the window. I recollected and started thinking about what had happened. What would have happened to the kid when he would have returned to the restaurant with the broken glasses. The beetle began to pierce the mind. The child was from poor family. He was an innocent kid. He was forced to work to earn something. At his age when others go to school and play, he was serving the customers at a restaurant.

Few days back, I had participated in the seminar on the issues of child labour in India.  The views expressed by the big speakers were appreciated. Everybody had a view but without any concrete plans. My paper titles “Plight, direction and way forward!” was recognised. However today, I was responsible for that kid’s loss. My 'time management' was an obstacle. My mind began to eat me. After thinking a lot, I felt that I should do something for that kid.

Basically, these children are forced to work at an early age because of the poverty, parents’ attitude towards the children and treating them as a 'source of income'. 

I decided to pay the loss of the child because I was sure that the owner would recover the money from his wages. I was feeling guilty so I also wanted to speak with the child. 

The next day, I went to the restaurant. I thought it would be nice to meet that kid. I met the hotel owner. I became acquainted with him as a regular customer. He asked for tea. 

I simply asked, “Where is the Chotu?”

“I fired him yesterday”


“These people will never change; they want all free.”

“.............” me

“He was not paying attention to his work. He always broke plates and glasses. He was useless”

“He was too small.” I replied,

“That’s ok but he stole the money of my regular customer”

"Why did he steal the money?"

“He took the money from the customer against the bill, but he hasn’t deposited it to me.”  

“Are you sure that he had taken the money?” Me

“He had money in his pocket, but he told me that was his.” 

“Somebody else must have taken the money.”

“Why would the customer lie?”

“But why would a child lie?” 

Restaurant owner preferred to keep mum. He took the child for granted and gave the judgement that child was in fault.   

I walked out. Child may or may not have stolen the money. He looked very innocent though.  

While walking on the other side of the road, there was a supermarket. One couple with the small kid was walking out of the supermarket with a big toy and bags.

On the other side, another poor kid with dirty clothes was walking. He took a pause, saw the small kid and his toy with curious eyes. He remembered something  and started again to walk fast. Perhaps his job was waiting for him.    

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)    

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkart and BookGanga 

(Income from books is donated to the NGO which works for orphans, street children & abandoned elders)

Saturday, January 09, 2021

It’s all about the ideology

It was mid-year in 1997. I had just joined the organization as a Management Trainee in the Personnel department. It was a heavy engineering company having the union affiliated to a left political outfit, militant and with illogical leadership known for disturbing the industries around. When I joined the organization, I was shortlisted for managing recruitment for diploma and engineering graduates and training them for the assembly line. Rule was simple. You hire trainee diploma engineers, train them and put them on the assembly line. You hire engineering graduates to supervise them or to work in quality control or some better job. Because of the nature of the job, the attrition in those trainees was high. So, my job was to keep filling the pipeline of those trainees. There were few lucky chaps who would get the permanent letter of the employment. Was this practice professional? I will say it depends upon the perspectives.         

When I joined, I came to know that there are some issues on the machining shop floor with union. The settlement was due for a long time and the union was pushing hard on their demands. I never realised that I would be the part of the team handling the industrial dispute and participate in negotiations further with the little experience I have. We had a team who used to manage discipline and industrial issues under the leadership of the Personnel Manager.        

I don’t remember the day, but one morning when I reached the factory, I saw the large gathering at the security gate. They were workmen but also the workmen who were from different industries around. They were waving red flags and shouting slogans against the few people in the management. I could not enter the gate. Somebody from the workmen noticed me. He took me to the leader. Leader asked me my name. I told my name and then he shouted the slogan against my name. I somehow escaped from there and stood at the end. After an hour, workmen dispersed, and I could get in. As I was one of the witnesses, the Personnel Manager asked me to give the statement in writing with names of workmen and details of the event. Security also submitted their report. 

Next day, there was a joint meeting between management and union, but I came to know that the said meeting was inconclusive. After a few days all the workmen suddenly stopped the work and they started shouting slogans and moving around the factory. Next day the large pandal was erected outside the gate. I don’t know why but the management asked all employees to come to the factory daily, sign the muster and if possible, run the machines. This was a difficult situation for all.     

And after 2-3 days the situation became chaotic. Managers were unable to go outside the factory and outsiders were unable to come in. Next day managers could escape out of the factory with the help of the police force. I came to know that the Personnel manager was fired and the Works Manager (in charge of the factory) took charge of the whole situation. Somebody from the corporate office came to Nashik. He was staying in the hotel outside but was trying to settle the situation with office bearers and external union leaders of the outfit.

Finally, the company decided to do two things. Suspend union committee members and simultaneously get the injunction for restricting to agitate them in front of the factory. 

I was called by the Works Manager, he asked, “Do you think that in such circumstances, you can hire and train trainees?”

“No” I said,

“Then, you don’t have any job to do.” He said

“I understand, you are asking me to leave.” I said sadly.

“I have not said so.” He smiled, ‘but I have an offer for you.”

“Which offer sir?” Me

“Will you work with me in handling the situation which you know? You will have to support in coordinating our labour lawyer, his team, courts and of course with union office bearers. We will have corporate Employee Relations Chief with whom you will work closely”

I was not that much aware about the consequences, but I was worried about my job and the salary. For me, my job was the priority. I had no options. I agreed.

Next few days were super busy working from early morning till midnight. Drafting notices with the help of our lawyer, displaying those and appealing workmen to resume back. Once we arranged snacks for the workmen and I took the opportunity to mingle with them. I think workmen wanted to resume the work, but office bearers were adamant. I could develop a few relations as few of them were living near my home. The Assistant Labour commissioner was trying hard to bring both parties together. I was now the team member assisting Works Manager and Chief of ER who was deputed by the corporate at the factory.

Battle was on 3 level,

Psychological level: It was a mind game for management and union. While negotiating, speaking, and dealing with the union, both parties used all pressure tactics.  

Social Level: It was a talk of the town with a lot of media coverage. People were speculating on who was right and who is wrong. So called social workers and political leaders started intervening and demanding the management to agree on the demand of workmen.    

Legal level: Simultaneously it was also fought in the legal machinery like labour commissioner, counselling officer and for injunction etc in industrial court and civil court. 

Individual level: This was a major task keeping workmen engaged and preparing them for the better and worst if something happens. They were losing their patience. Their families started calling our known officers requesting to do something about this.  

After a few days, the situation became worse. Few union leaders along with outsiders entered inside the factory and started to sabotage the property. It was too much. This was the right time to act. Police again intervened. What the union was doing was totally illegal. Anyway, it was an illegal strike.

I had nine letters in my hand typed by me on the typewriter and signed by the Works Manager. I had to hand over those letters to union committee members. I was scared. In the presence of our security guards and 2 police constables, I handed over the “suspension pending enquiry” letters to union committee members. That day was stressful day. I was shaking and perhaps I would have been collapsed the way union committee behaved with me. It was mental abuse and threats to look after me outside. In the slogans, my name was also added frequently. After a few days, the company decided to declare the lock out and close the plant. Accordingly, the notice was pasted, and copies were sent to union and state authorities.

For me lock down was the good news as I could be away from this all, till we get some order from the court. Within the next 1.5 month, finally, we got the injunction in favour of the company, restricting them to agitate in front of the factory. Court clearly declared the right of running the factory. Court asked the union to resume the work immediately and settle the matter on the table. We were aware that our lock out was also illegal.

Nine union committee members were still outside, however workmen were asked to submit the good conduct bond. Everybody signed the bond except few. It was split but the majority wanted peace of mind. It was clear now that workmen abandoned the union office bearers. We helped the workmen to have the new leadership which was more amiable which also got recognition from the industrial court very fast. 15% workmen remained with the earlier union.  Settlement was signed with a win-win situation.

After a few years, I had the opportunity to visit the house of an earlier leftist union leader in connection with some social club where I was the member. His house was a four storied building. He was living with the family on the 4th floor. It was a posh home of course with elegant showpieces and rich furniture and we were served the tea in silver cups and saucers.

While taking the tea, I recalled the whole incident. Nine union committee members were on their own fighting for the reinstatement back which was not possible. Once, I saw one of them driving the rickshaw. When I waived towards him, he just saw me. I will never forget his gloomy smile. 

Workmen who went behind that external leader lost their face and they never came out from the failure. Local committee members could not get the job back. Really the left ideology is strange.

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)    

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkart and BookGanga 

(Income from books is donated to the NGO which works for orphans, street children & abandoned elders)

Sunday, January 03, 2021

School of thought which I follow.

It was the year 1997. I was doing my post-graduation (Masters) in management from the institute which is affiliated to Pune University. The situation was not that good. Our batch was the second batch of the management college. Our senior batch was almost ready for placement, however there were very few companies visiting our campus. It was the era of slowdown because of Asian financial crisis. Companies were shutting down their shops. The militant left union known for their adamant attitude was making a lot of noise on the issues of wage agreement. Industries over the district in different industrial areas were struggling with top line, profitability and at other side with the non-cooperation from the union resulting in poor productivity. Few local industrialists were more much in trouble. The other union which was affiliated to the right-wing political party was blackmailing industries and few union leaders were demanding ransom from industries. Few industries were shifting to neighbouring states.

The situation was the same everywhere in the state. Few years back the government had come with the idea of establishing industrial belts in different regions. The idea was good, but the progress was slow. The infrastructure required for the industries was not that good in those delocalised regions. However few industries choose to be there to get the tax and other benefits. The new industries became the cash cows for local mafias. The environment was not that conducive for industries.

Strikes, go slow and agitations were common. This took me in 1982 where the great Bombay textile strike was called by mill workers of Mumbai under the leadership of Datta Samant. We all know the debacle of this strike. It is said that this strike was the big conspiracy against the poor mill workers by union leaders, political leaders and mill owners. This strike was spontaneous, and workers went to Mr. Samant demanded him to lead the strike, discarding established unions that time. Main demands were for more bonus and increase in wages. This strike lasted almost 19 months with the involvement of almost 0.25 million mill workers resulting in permanent closure of textile mills and pushing almost billions of people in poverty and hardship. Mr. Samant was a successful union leader dealing with employers for wage increase earlier. His militant style got popular and he established his credibility among the workmen. Because of his success, mill workers demanded him to be the leader and lead the strike. However, Samant was not ready for that. He agreed finally when workmen were too pushy and were not ready to leave his home. Very soon other leftist union supported Mr. Samant While fighting for greater pay and better conditions for the workers, Samant and his allies also sought to capitalize and establish their power on the trade union scene in Mumbai. The government got scared because if this strike would have been successful, it would have had an impact on port and dock workers and other big establishments in the region. The then congress government in state and center didn’t want the influence of Samant. We don’t know what cooked behind the scene but Samant tried to encash the situation but could not do it as Mill Owners Association and government refused to budge the pressure of union in spite of economic losses.                

The situation in 1997 was different. Union had lost its glory but because of the economic conflict, few unions were trying to establish their power. Industrial relations became better compared to 1982, but the mindset shift was required.

 It was the hot summer of 1996. As a part of the project assignment, we had to visit industries and work there for a few days. College had given us the recommendation letter. Contacting industries and relevant officers was an ongoing struggle. Today the world is so fast with the internet and mobile. That time, we had landlines and that’s also in a few homes. There was no other option. We had to travel to an industrial area, convince the security officer or the guard of the company and request him to allow us to speak with the relevant officer. It was like company to company marketing of your resume for the project work. Me along with my 3 friends were visiting industries daily and finally we got something.

That was my first experience to see the factory inside. It was a big electrical manufacturing company. We could enter the factory and meet the Personnel manager of the factory. He had a big cabin. He invited us inside, listened to us patiently. Finally, he allowed us to work with him on the project.

During the two months, we spent time with blue collar workmen, understanding their psyche. I also spoke with union leaders, worked with them on the shopfloor. I drafted disciplinary action letters, show cause notices, for the manager. During the span of two months, I realised one thing and that was, "missed human connection". There was a gap between white collar and blue-collar workmen. It was always “we” and “they”. Workmen were not willing to learn new things and managers were not taking them in confidence. There were separate canteens, separate washrooms, separate locker rooms. During the briefing session, I asked the question to the manager who was assigned to us as a project supervisor by the company, “It seems that we are focusing more on discipline, implementation of agreement clauses, but why don’t we focus on their skilling and reskilling, training and development and other human resource factors? Why don't we establish some mechanism to listen to them? Why don’t we establish connections without involving unions?” He laughed and replied, “It’s about the attitude from both sides, workmen and management. We can just try to bring that change. Unfortunately, both parties are not willing to do that.”

Today we have made a lot of progress in Industrial Relations. Unions are changing and they are not that extreme. There are “old school” and “new school” thoughts. One goes by the guidebook, rules and regulations, this thought is strong in managing any types of unions by any means. Another school of thought thinks about the human angle in industrial relations, understands different perspectives, challenges workmen on their purpose but equally is strong managing them in a balanced way. Both are right in their ways.

I was not aware that time what is there for me after submitting the project to the company and my professor. But yes, that day, I was clear which school of thought, I wanted to follow. 

 Please read the print replica of my latest book written for leaders on amazon kindle, Vitality in Human Resource: Adding human dimensions in HR processes

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)    

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkart and BookGanga 
(Income from books is donated to the Janseva foundation which works for orphans, street children & abandoned elders)

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