But among all these, two interviews stayed with me- The first one of Sushil Modi, where we saw a major & experienced player recount his journey from the era of emergency to today. And the second one was Kanhaiya Kumar’s interview, purely because of the euphoria & public frenzy that surrounds him.
Kanhaiya Kumar pointed out that trade unions have lost their relevance with changing production systems.
In his interview, Modi raised a valid point that how in their attempt of getting international, Indian communists lost their national character as well. In an answer to that Mr. Kumar although didn’t acquit his fellow comrades but tried to draw attention towards an issue that how the labor/workers union lost their relevance in changing economic/production systems.
This was in reference to the IT revolution of the 1990s which completely changed the workplace dynamics & made worker’s unions irrelevant and obsolete. With an increased focus on individual aspirations, this system pitted the earlier brother -in -arms against each other.
Before the advent of this system, the companies and firms hired a number of people for the same position with the same pay scale & barring a few exceptions all these co-workers enjoyed the same perks & same emoluments. Thus they often joined hands against the management for collective gains.
But the advent of the era of CTC and packages made these brothers each other’s competitors. According to this policy, the company’s started offering a few workers the salary which was manifold the average salary of the previous regime. And this was publicized so much that no one even bothered to find out whether the rest of the cohort was getting paid way below the average salary.
This was a psychological trick to make workers feel that if you are getting underpaid & not getting some perks, it is not because of the firm’s dishonesty but your incompetence as the same perks are being extended to other workers in the same firm. This philosophy worked wonders as we saw that in a span of a few decades, how the majority of the planet’s wealth got concentrated in few hands. And this led to the beginning of the worship of the wealthy rather than wealth and this super-rich came out of their board rooms and permeated every aspect of our lives. If we leave the politics apart as it was always infested by money & accompanying corruption, we saw the rise of business tycoons as demigods.
Every Indian dreamt of going the Ambani way & every startup wished to grow Facebook’s way. Vijay Mallya & Subroto Roy replaced kings & princes from examples of magnificence & opulence. And just like the inevitable it was, these people fell. Even in that scenario when every citizen of this country was judging & passing their judgments on these individuals it was taboo for the employees of these people to do so at least officially.
In simple terms, the IT revolution unleashed a corporate system that broke the unity existing between the co-workers by making them competitors. And thus successfully converted the co-operative Labour market into a competitive one. Doing away with these checks made these firms so powerful that they themselves started considering themselves equivalent to sovereign governments. The articles in business magazines claiming that turnover of Apple inc. is more than the GDP of some countries that don’t work in isolation.
Rather they give rise to real-life conflicts like Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi v/s Jeff Bezos of Amazon which claim lives like those of Jamaal Khashoggi. Even as of now we are witnessing a similar situation in China when a (not so sovereign) Government is in conflict with a larger than life-sized Business Tycoon. These are just a few instances of public behavior. In private or personal life the behavior of these corporations has been much more unethical & corrupt. These stories vary from hush money payments by Google over sexual harassment allegations to the honey trap scandal of Yes Bank.
The list of such new era misconducts by businesses would go on. But the main point which I wanted to raise was that because of Worker’s unity getting nullified in the era of the tech-aided corporate rat race of individual aspirations these organizations got a free hand to turn autocratic.
In such a scenario, the news that the employees of Google have formed a workers union comes like a whiff of fresh air. This news becomes even more significant when we find that this event has occurred in Google – a pure tech-based firm that has been the progenitor of this rat race. Let’s hope that this small step would prove to be a giant leap and give new life to labor movements across the world in times when automation is knocking at the door.