Strong Industrial Relations: Not a Mirage to Indian HRD Managers


Prof. Dileep Kumar M.


Employer's and Worker's Organisations exist to express represent and defend the interest of their members. These interests will frequently diverge and unless a compromise can be found that is satisfactory to the parties and some time to the government as well, the results may be a labour dispute. Strike is the weapon of employees and lockout is the counter weapon of management. Human resource managers in the vast majority of firms have spent most of their time and energies to contain union power.  Collective labour disputes happen in organisation based on two reasons. The prior one is that which based on conflicts of law, and later one is based on conflicts of interests. Conflicts of interests are on the wages, hours of work etc. The later is based on collective agreements or labour laws. The conflict of interest is more interest is rapidly increasing in recent days because of rapid globalization and liberalization of interests. The changing labour laws are part of this change process and invites greater resistance from the labourers.

Why HRD Interventions Required?

HRD department have to develop adequate strategies to develop strong relation with trade unions within the organization. Many studies related to trade union and industrial relation pointed out that many policies and approaches existing in Indian organisations are not supportive to develop a culture of cooperation and cohesiveness between union and management.

Mahanti and Sing (2001) pointed out in this context that "trade unions are the age old institutions for protecting and promoting the interest of the workers. They have held their grip on organized industry for over several decades. Human resource managers in the vast majority of firms have spent most of their time and energies to contain union power."

Punekar (1948) In a tradition bound society, which gives due important to authority, the distance between the managers and worker has been substantial. The gap has therefore been filled by politicians turned union executives.

Iswar Dayal and J.B.P.Sinha and Sudheer Kakar highlight the uniqueness of the Indian institution. "The employees in the west differentiate the social and work role, while employees in India rarely do so. It would be possible to develop we-ness if policies and practices instill among employees the feeling of 'acceptance' and 'belonging'. Both management union would have to make the effort to perceive their roles differently, keeping in mind that the enterprises is unlikely to survive without an exercise of this nature".

Mital R.A. (2001) indicates that in India workers are blamed for low productivity, which has lead to the introduction of the concept of productivity-linked wages.  Whenever productivity went up the management takes the credit attributing such increase in productivity to new technology, new machinery, improved quality of raw materials and efficient management of all the physical resources including money.  But whenever productivity is low, labour is blamed as if it were solely responsible for the decline.

Chandidas Sinha (2001), stated that "the workers used to be treated as commodity.  They used to behave with indignity.  They were not taken into confidence, nor had their rights at the work place been recognized.  Had the unions be taken into confidence and the workers were treated with dignity mutual trust would have developed and industrial climate would have been congenial for the growth of the industry.  But the employer's community preferred to remain critical about trade unions and maintained a safe distance from the trade unions.

Mital R.A. (2001) indicate that the prime requisite for a new work culture or a culture of high performance is a symbiosis of workers, their trade unions and the management with full awareness of the commonality of interest-prosperity of enterprise-that will usher a culture of co-operation with mutual understanding with the trust.   Presently for all shortcomings workers and trade unions are blamed…Even in this modern era the employer's approach to the workers is that of a master to servant".

  Instead of antagonistic attitude, management should develop more cooperative endeavor to manage the unions and develop peace harmony within the organization. It is necessary to make them understand the importance of existence of industry more for the betterment and improvement of employees and give a better standard of living to them. To ensure it the management has to make them understand the importance of business advancement, productivity and customer relations. A work culture, which ensures strong union management relation, is the fine solution. A culture of high performance is a symbiosis of workers, trade unions and the management, they equally works towards organisational goal attainment.

To develop a culture of industrial peace and harmony between management and union organisations, following approaches should be taken into account. 

1. Both management and union should concern towards customer relations and customer services.

2. Trade union should develop credibility by developing good image within the organization.

3. Management should develop better relationship with the workers and develop good image within the organization.

4. Avoid blind confrontations and believe in rationale cooperation between members and management within the organisation.

5. Both management and trade union should share the responsibilities to lead the organization towards goal attainment. 

6. The union and management should develop mutual trust and confidence between two parties.

7. Encourage open communication between the two parties.

8. Ensure participative decision-making.

9. Arrive at medium and long-term agreements.

10. Avoid decisions that affect employee's stability of employment.

11. Avoid practice of victimization and marginalization of employees.

12. Never manipulate rewards to deserving employees.

13. Enhance functioning of the Joint Management Committees, Quality Circles and Shop Councils.

14. Arrive at settlement of disputes through mediation than arbitration.

15. Arrive at common objective programs between two parties.

16. Ensure transparency in information sharing and communication process.

17. Give freedom to point out mistakes of each other.

18. Believe in work ethics, professional ethics and managerial ethics.

19. Encourage teamwork to reduce the gap between workers and managers within the organisation.

20. Encourage the feeling of equanimity than superior and inferior complex.

21. Organize workshops seminars and symposiums to conscientise the working population and trade unions about the changes at global and local level.

22. Get detached from unrealistic demands and objectives.

23. Open up different channels of communication to reduce the trade unions involvement in conflict handling purposes.

24. Maintain the negotiation with trade unions and improve the relationship with workers.

25. Give opportunity to trade union leaders to visit organizations where there are strong union management relationships.

26. Use skill development and reward as a strategy to make employees to take decisions independently.

27. Ensure more power sharing and delegation of authority at unit level.

28. Believe in the principle of continuous improvement and committed to learning.

29. Recognition of employees as a partner in the organizational achievements and advancement.

30. Opportunity for training to employees in order to ensure their growth and development within the organisation.

31. Take suggestions from employees to design the type and kind of decisions they expected to undergo within their functional level.

32. Concentrate on job requirement capability match to avoid job stress and dissatisfaction among workers.

33. Avoid hasty decisions to avoid union intervention in handling individual members problem.

34. Trade unions should concentrate more on quality of membership than quantity for better bargaining.

35. Begin with quality of work and participations than collective bargaining.

36. Avoid interventions of legal system to resolve organizational crisis.

37. Avoid play politics by trade unions using workers life.

38. Avoid play politics by management to attain short-term goals.

39. Make use of games and role-plays to understand each other's position and avoid misunderstandings.

40. Do share over all objectives of the organization with working population in its true spirit and cooperation.

41. Management and trade unions should arrive at agreements on total quality management and reactivation of joint ventures.

42. Workers should practice efficient use of materials and consumables.

43. Restrain from unnecessary strike and lockouts.


Attitudinal change on the part of Human Resource Managers in the policy decisions are envisaged in this article for better integration and development of congenial organisational atmosphere in the organisations. The prime objective of business is making the business surplus not the welfare. Without making the money the organisations cannot think about investment of their surplus in corporate social responsibilities. HR managers, who develop the Corporate Human Resource Policies, should not forget this prime concern and try to put their great effort in extending training programmes to the new generation young mangers integrating the philosophy of business surplus with harmonious industrial relations. Training programmes to trade union leaders are the prime requirement for better industrial relations, in addition to the attitudinal change. 


1. Chandidas Sinha (2001) 'Role of Trade Unions in Developing a Culture of High Performance', Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol, 37. No 1. P: 421-433.   

2. Dayal  Ishwar, Jai B P Sinha & Kakar Sudheer (1972)
,  'Authority Relations in Indian Organization', Management International Review, Vol.1 ,

3. Dayal Ishwar. et al., (1996), 'Successful Application of HRD, Case Studies of Indian Organisations', New Concepts, New Delhi.

4. Dayal, I. (1997), 'Are unions losing influence', Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol.33, No.2, October, P: 245-253.

5. Dayal, I. (1999), 'Union Management relations in the changing business environment', Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol.35, No.2, October P: 211-233.

6. Harbajan Sing & Nirup Mahanti. (2001), ' The Role of trade Unions in Bringing About Performance Oriented Culture,' Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol, 37. No. 1. P: 421-433    

7. Harold, L.A. and James, L.P, (1983), 'Dual Commitment and Labour management Relationship Climate', Academy of management Journal, 29, P; 31-50.

8. Mital, R.A. (2001), 'Role of Trade Unions: Some Random Thoughts,' Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol, 37. No 1. P: 421-433   

9. Punekar, S.D. (1948), 'Trade Unionism In India', New Book Co. Bombay.

Prof. Dileep Kumar M.

Source: E-mail May 6, 2006


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