Managing People at Work: Employment Relations in Globalizing India


Subesh Das

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    List of Abbreviations

    AFL-CIOAmerican Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations
    AITUCAll India Trade Union Congress
    BCCIBengal Chamber of Commerce and Industries
    BIFRBoard of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction
    BMSBharatiya Mazdoor Sangh
    BOCBritish Oxygen Company
    CIIConfederation of Indian Industry
    CITUCenter of Indian Trade Union
    CPI(M)Communist Party of India (Marxist)
    CSRCustomer Service Representative
    DGBDeutscher Gewerkschaftsbund
    EFIEmployers' Federation of India
    EUEuropean Union
    FDIForeign Direct Investment
    GATTGeneral Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
    GDPGross Domestic Product
    GISGeographical Information System
    HMSHind Mazdoor Sangh
    HRHuman Resource
    HRDHuman Resource Development
    HRMHuman Resource Management
    ICTInformation and Communication Technology
    IHRMInternational Human Resource Management
    ILOInternational Labor Organization
    IMFInternational Monetary Fund
    INTUCIndian National Trade Union Congress
    IOCIndian Oxygen Company
    IRIndustrial Relations
    ITInformation Technology
    ITCIndian Tobacco Company
    ITESInformation Technology-enabled Services
    ITSInformation Technology Services
    JITJust in Time
    MCCMitsubishi Chemical Corporation
    MCPIMitsubishi Chemical PTA India
    MISManagement Information System
    MNCMultinational Corporation
    MNEMultinational Enterprise
    NAFTANorth American Free Trade Agreement
    NASSCOMNational Association of Software and Services Companies
    NICNewly Industrializing Country
    NSSNational Sample Survey
    OEOrganizational Effectiveness
    QCQuality Circle
    SICASick Industrial Companies Act
    TPMTotal Productive Maintenance
    TQCTotal Quality Control
    TQMTotal Quality Management
    TUCTrade Union Congress
    VRSVoluntary Retirement Scheme


    This book presents changes in employment relations in India in the post-reform period. The term “Employment Relations” encompasses both Human Resource Management (HRM) and Industrial Relations (IR). Important issues in this include behaviors of workers and managers, their interactions, nature of work organizations, work practices, union representation, and their changes over time. The strength of this book lies in its comprehensive coverage of contemporary issues within the framework of rich theoretical argument.

    Most studies on employment relations are on developed countries. They indicate existence of a finite set of dominant employment systems, where each system is identified by an interrelated set of inputs, processes, and outcomes. The recent changes indicate growing variations in employment relation practices within countries (divergences) and emerging commonalities in employment relation practices across countries (convergences). The “converging divergences” thesis in employment relations has been developed based on studies in the industrialized countries. This book examines validity of the thesis in Indian context and finds similar changes. Further, it examines the global factors that influence firms' employment relations. It examines how nature of industries, global factors, and unionization influence the emerging commonalities and variations. It identifies how some firms in India are adopting world-class manufacturing practices and associated modern HRM practices, while others are unable to do so.

    The book has nine chapters. Chapter 1 presents the theoretical framework for the study and puts objectives and scopes of the study in the context of work already done. Chapter 2 identifies the changes in the global and national environment in terms of economic, technological, legal, social, and political contexts. Chapter 3 examines shifts in capital-labor power balance, which has a major influence on firms' employment relations. It presents an account of the structure and functions of trade unions and their changes over time. Chapter 4 shows existence of four dominant patterns of employment relations in Indian textile industry: the low-wage pattern, the HRM pattern, the joint-team-based pattern, and the conflict pattern. The findings in the textile industry are then supported with examples from other industries. The textile industry does not capture all issues on changes in employment relations. Chapter 5 tries to fill up the gap; it examines the rapid and fundamental changes in employment relations in capital-intensive firms. Information and communications technology (ICT) has rewritten the agenda for the industrial world and has evolved new ideas of employee management. Chapter 6 examines employment relations in IT-enabled service (ITES) firms. Global factors now have major influence on firms' operations and it is not uniform across firms. The influences are more in multinational corporations (MNCs) than in local firms. Chapter 7 examines the global-local issues in employment relations and finds their impact on the growing variations in employment relations in India. Majority of workers in India work in small firms where employers most often directly control all aspects of workers' work life. Chapter 8 examines changes in employment relations in small firms. Chapter 9, the concluding chapter, aggregates the findings of the preceding chapters. It concludes that there are growing variations in employment relations within India and at the same time growing similarities of the variations with those in other countries.

    The book is appropriate for students, professionals, academicians, and researchers. The global convergence issues in the book will attract readers interested in international and comparative employment relations. The various case studies presented in the book tell readers about the contemporary practices in HRM and how they differ across firms and across industries. They tell us about the new practices in HRM and how some firms have been successful in restructuring their organizations in the competitive environment. They explain how some firms have been successful in improvement of productivity, quality, and labor flexibility, while others have not. They describe how some firms have introduced modern practices like teamwork, multi-skilling, kaizen, quality circle (QC), total quality management (TQM), and 5S for housekeeping. The book covers important issues in managing people at work like selection and recruitment compensation, performance appraisal, training and retraining, employee communication, managing contract labor, dealing with unions, etc., which every professional in personal management would like to know.

    My long stay for more than seven years as Labor Commissioner and Labor Secretary in West Bengal helped me to understand the field practices and the gap between the field practices and academic theories. My study in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, USA gave me the opportunity to learn advanced theoretical arguments on changes in employment relations with comparative and international perspectives. This book has been developed within the framework of the advanced theories in employment relations and with the ingredients of the field knowledge acquired during my assignments in the labor department. The book thus combines field practices in the real world of work with frontline theoretical argument in HRM and IR. I expect that the students and professionals in the field will find the book stimulating and rewarding.



    I have greatly benefited for this work from my dissertation committee members, Professor Sarosh Kuruvilla, Professor Harry Katz, and Professor Thomas J. DiCiccio. Their support and guidance have been invaluable. A special appreciation is due to Professor Kuruvilla for his inspiration and mentorship. Completion of this project would not have been possible without the generous financial support of Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell's Mario Einaudi Center, and the American Institute of Indian Studies. I am also grateful to Government of West Bengal and Government of India for granting me study leave and granting me permission for the Ph.D. program.

    I would also like to thank Labor Department officials in the Government of West Bengal and other states in India, who helped me in contacting several managers and trade union leaders. They helped me to choose different firms for the study, provided me with information on individual firms and industries, and helped me to contact key persons for my research. I would also like to convey my thanks to the senior managers and trade union leaders who spared their valuable time and provided important information in relation to their firms and their employees or members.

    I would like to thank my wife Rupa and my son Kaustav for supporting me to concentrate on my work throughout the study. They accompanied me during my stay in Ithaca, put up with me through all the difficulties, and provided me with emotional support and encouragement to complete the work.

    Finally, I dedicate this book to my mother, Smt. Mridula Das, who has always supported me in my endeavor, always given me the strength and encouragement to follow my dreams.

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    About the Author

    Subesh Das is presently working as the Principal Secretary to the Government of West Bengal. He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1982 and worked in different positions for the Government of West Bengal. During 1995–1996, he received a fellowship under the Colombo Plan for training in the United Kingdom and earned a master's degree in Economics in Social Development at the Centre of Development Studies, University of Swansea, UK. He worked as Labor Commissioner, West Bengal, in two phases: 1992–1995 and 1996–1999. As Labor Commissioner he was engaged in matters relating to conciliation of industrial disputes, enforcement of labor laws and collective bargaining agreements, labor welfare, and labor rights in West Bengal. After working in the government for seventeen years, Mr Das joined the Ph.D. program in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, United States. He has published articles in journals and edited volumes.

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