An ideal Employer-Employee Relationship: Tata Steel

Posted on August 3, 2012 in Business and Economy, Society

By Ankit Varma:

“Industrial Relation” is a function of many variables. Some of the contributing factors are participative management, grievance settlement machinery, wage determination etc. Tata Steel is the largest steel manufacturer in India with an annual capacity of 23.5 million ton and employees approximately 80,000. Tata Steel workers in a century-old history have not gone on a strike at Jamshedpur, where its Indian manufacturing operations are largely based.

The recent incidents at Maruti-Suzuki plant in Manesar have highlighted the perils of friction between employer and employee. The functioning and model of Tata Steel in many ways can be perceived as ideal and other unions across the country can adopt similar practices.

Growth of the trade union is a response to the challenge thrown by the modern industry. Viewed in this background, the origin of trade union movement in Tata Steel were due to the same reason as elsewhere in Europe and America. Since 1907 dissatisfaction was increasing in the working class in Tata Steel. However, it was only in 1920 that labour organization was born after great struggle with the management.

The genesis of trade union Tata Steel can be traced back to 1920. Over the years the workers’ union has evolved under the capable leadership of stalwarts such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad and Subhas Chandra Bose to name a few.

Presently, over 25 trade unions exist in Tata Steel. Some of them are independent trade unions whereas some are affiliated to Central trade union federations, such as CITU, AITUC etc. But these trade unions have hardly any following among the workers and supervisors of Tata Steel. This is the primary reason for the non-political nature of the union. At present only one strong trade union is existing since long called Tata Workers’ Union (TWU).

Tata Workers’ Union is a registered trade union with a written constitution. Through INTUC it is also affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. This helps it to adopt international welfare practices for its members. The structure of the union is highly organized. Tata Workers’ Union has a general body compromising of ordinary members. Above the general body in the hierarchy of TWU are the Executive Committee members. These executive committee members represent the workers and supervisors of all the department of Tata Steel at Jamshedpur. They are democratically elected from their constituencies.

The constitution of the Tata Workers Union provides that members of the union shall propose the name of the candidate from their own respective units. The Unions’ constitution provides about the members, their membership, holding meetings and other relevant matters. The constitution provides that a strike shall not be resorted to unless according to the opinion of the executive committee, gross injustice has been done to a member or members of the union, and this will take place only after all other means have failed to bring about redressal or an improvement in the situation. The resolution for strike has to be passed by majority of the members of the executive committee and by that of the general body of members in a mass meeting.

A close look at the growth of leadership brings out clearly two factors that have helped industrial harmony, peace and understanding in Tata Steel. The guidance received by national leaders has helped in growth of responsible union and the outside guide and philosophers helped growth of internal leadership and bestowed them with the same philosophy as they preached and practiced.