The Manesar Incident and its Impact on Workplace Violence in India

The previous article introduced the concept of workplace violence and its impact on industrial relations across the world. The recent incidents of large scale violence in the Maruti Factory in Manesar, India and the Foxconn Plant in China have raised larger issues about how workplace violence has to be handled and how they affect industrial relations between the unions and the management. Of particular concern is the fact that these incidents have happened at a time when world over there have been protests against corporations by the workers demanding greater wage parity and other benefits. One of the reasons that has been put forward for these incidents is that they have happened because of rising inequality and the fact that with cost of living going up across the world, the poorly paid workers are unable to resist taking to violence to voice their protest.

Whatever may be the reasons, it needs to be noted that violence is not a justification on any count and that only democratic means of protest ought to be tolerated.

The realm of workplace violence is fraught with a complex set of factors that include the resentment felt by the workers, the intransigence of management, and the fact that the laws and regulations in many countries are skewed towards the management rather than the workers. This is often touted to be the reason why there are increasing instances of workplace violence across the world. The remedy for such incidents would be for the governments and the judiciary to protect the rights of the workers and ensure that their grievances are heard. Of particular importance is the role played by the labor officers in the areas where workplace violence is reported and their criticality to the resolution of industrial disputes is of high importance.

The other aspect of workplace violence is that once the situation gets out of hand, controlling the rampaging workers is very difficult and often the end result is that the situation turns extremely violent. This prompts the management to declare a lockout and suspend the striking workers and turning to the police to give them protection. It needs to be mentioned that none of these are viable solutions and only through dialogue can the process of negotiation and dispute resolution be achieved. Of course, the workers in Manesar had their own reasons as has been covered in detail in the media and these included lack of time off, hiring of too many contract workers, lack of adequate leave, and finally, the fact that their wages had not kept pace with the rising cost of living.

Finally, to prevent incidents such as the one in Manesar, management has a duty to redress the grievances of the workers and the workers in turn have to ensure that their options are not shut off by resorting to hooliganism and violence. Hence, the best way forward would be for the management, workers, and a third party negotiator to initiate talks as has been done in recent weeks by the Maruti management and it is hoped that such incidents of violence do not recur.

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