The column by TV Mohandas Pai and Rajesh Moorthy “Disruptive unions” (FE, August 13) rightly identifies the archaic labour laws, apathetic government and breakdown of communications in the manufacturing sector for the present ailments in industrial relations. The Bajaj Auto union called off its strike at Chakhan resolving the dispute on wage revision and its demands may have been seen as outrageous. But look at the settlements that have taken place recently, as in Maruti and another MNC in Pune that gave its senior workers a huge wage hike. These increases are in an environment where the economy is not doing so well and queers the pitch not only for other companies but makes workmen feel that their leaders can achieve more by being irresponsible. The wage settlement processes in many companies has received a great setback not only because the company cannot afford such hikes but also because worker leaders are reluctant to settle at any reasonable figure, given the exorbitant wage hikes taking place elsewhere.
If leaders are not irresponsible, the leadership affiliation is changed to embrace the more militant leaders. Such huge settlements are further aggravating the disparities between the permanent workmen and the contract or casual labour working in these companies, who are paid only minimum wages. Is it difficult to explain why the number of contract workers are increasing in companies? A recent EFI study on contract labour showed that in several companies they have become very significant as organisations find it as a method to deal with the fluctuating demand and uncertainties of the market. With permanent workmen there can be no lay-offs, retrenchment or closure. Unless the government plays a positive role in stamping out militancy and violence and brings about a change in the environment (read, change archaic laws), these problems will continue to plague our industries. But the lack of clear majority at the state and central level makes these expectations a pipe dream.
R Krishna Murthy, Mumbai
Nehru’s temples to just temples
Apropos of the column “From Nehru’s temples to just temples” (FE, August 19), it is a pity that even the removal of a roadside temple for road expansion faces stiff resistance, and even the municipal employees refuse to undertake demolition work for fear of God’s curse. This religious sentiment is a stumbling block to development. What the Saudi government can do in Saudi Arabia is not always possible in India given our