Some of the restrictive work practices AND Approaches Made by Managements

Some of the restrictive work practices in old manufacturing plants are, and this is an illustrative and not an exhaustive list – 

(i) Refusal by workers to move from one machine/equipment to the other during a shift. For example, if a packing line has gone under break down, refusal by workers to shift and work on another packing line which is idle. 

(ii) Refusal by workers to operate new/modified equipment unless they get additional benefits.

(iii) Refusal by workers to undertake changed process while operating equipment unless they get additional benefits.

(iv) Refusal by workers to undertake manufacturing of new products. 

(v) Low output norms. Quota system of output.

(vi) Creating fine boundaries in simple tasks – instrument technician refusing to open screws of the panel, insisting it is the job of a fitter.

(vii) Demand for higher grade/additional increment/additional allowance/additional workforce for doing anything additional/modified from past practice, though there is spare time available to the worker in the shift.

(viii) One to one manning, so as to get maximum overtime.

(ix) Over time for a complete shift and for the total group.

(x) Quota based overtime as an entitlement to carry out normal quota of output; for example, drivers of company vehicles claiming fixed overtime and allowances for doing ertain duty.

(xi) Absenteeism of worker with a mutual understanding – One worker doing overtime on account of another worker’s absenteeism and vice versa with an intention to get paid extra for overtime hours.

(xii) Workers going on outstation duty demanding benefits higher than the specified entitlement, like messenger persons demanding taxi fare instead of bus/rail fare which is the grade/job related entitlement.

(xiii) Refusal by workers to work along with others (i.e. apprentices/ temporaries/contract workers).

(xiv) Taking longer duration tea/lunch breaks than the stipulated timing.

(xv) Delayed arrival/early departure from place of work.

(xvi) High absenteeism and coverage by medical certificate.

(xvii) Earned annual leave, for being availed by individual worker, needs to be applied at least 15 days before the date on which leave is to commence and the annual leave cannot be taken more than three times per year as per the Factories Act, 1948; however, the same is not followed by workers, and taking leave more than three times a year and btaining post facto sanction of leave is claimed as an entitlement.

(xviii) Mutual change of shift with fellow workers without the knowledge of supervisor/officer.

(xix) Misuse of accidental leave. Minor injuries sustained are prolonged; and company doctor pressurized for paid accident leave.

(xx) Reaching the work site without complete tools and tackles, thus resulting in delay in completing the job 

(xxi) Avoidance/Non-use of safety wear – Personal Protective Equipment. 

(xxii) Agitate on delay/quality of tea, snacks and meal in canteen. 

(xxiii) Refusal to agree for any increase in tariff of tea, snacks, meal in canteen in spite the cost going up. 

(xxiv) Misuse of plant first aid/medical centre.

(xxv) Demand for light work on medical grounds.

(xxvi) Official time off/official leave to attend funeral of colleague/colleague’s near relations.

(xxvii) Missing from specified place of work.

(xxviii) Loitering about while on duty.

(xxix) Sleeping during working hours.

(xxx) Gambling during working hours.

(xxxi) Consuming alcohol during working hours.

(xxxii) Internal trade union leaders/ office bearers of trade unions do only trade union/personal work during working hours.

(xxxiii) Whenever trade union activists go outside the plant premises for any trade union work, they take full day time off at company cost even if the work is for a short duration.

(xxxiv) Productivity norms of trade union leaders are low.

(xxxv) Trade union leaders do not want line managers to differentiate between performers and non-performers with respect to increment/promotion.

(xxxvi) Trade union leaders desire to link up issues and continue dialogue for a long time.

(xxxvii) Trade union leaders pressurize on recruitment, promotion, and higher grade acting allowance of employees recommended by them (sometimes in the garb of workers participation in management).

(xxxviii) Trade union leaders prolong/delay/prevent conducting of domestic enquiry and/or disciplinary action.

(xxxix) Trade union leaders insist on the right to use company transport for friends/ relatives free.

Approaches Made by Managements :

Some of the approaches made by managements in reducing/solving the restrictive work practices in old plants are mentioned here. Each enterprise needs to estimate the quantum and intensity of the restrictive work related practices prevalent on its manufacturing plant. 

There are managements of manufacturing plants that list all the restrictive work related practices that have crept in the plant to date. Analyse each of these restrictive work practices, why and when did they start. Analyse the interest of the workers and the trade unions in continuing these. Also analyse the interest
and benefits that would accrue to the management if these restrictive work practices are reduced/eliminated and then decide what to do next.

The approaches adopted in reducing/eliminating these restrictive work practices by management of each enterprise will differ; however, some of the approaches
are listed below, this, however, is not an exhaustive check list – 

(i) Multi tasking has been looked as a solution to reduce/eliminate restrictive practices of the workers refusing to work in other areas. Successful implementation of multitasking is time consuming, as it needs a systematic effort on training and development of the workers and also redesigning the job, resulting in multi tasking. It has been observed that there are enterprises where the workers have received financial benefit because they acquired the additional skill but are not involved in multitasking. Success in this area needs employee involvement, ensuring compliance, as well as financial initiative like multitasking allowance or a higher grade to the worker, undertaking multitasking. Multi-skilling has been successfully introduced in certain enterprises like fitter should also know welding, rigging etc., so that large workforce is not required and for certain financial incentives, it is given the tasks performed by an individual worker. 

(ii) Self-Directed Work Teams (SDWT) is an approach where the team running a machine or a line is empowered to take decisions and PQCDSM (i.e. productivity, quality, cost, delivery, safety & morale) targets are set. The team every day visits the next customer (next operation which is using their output) to understand last day failures and present day demand.

They themselves monitor cell performance and draw action plans. The SDWTs work on the basis of self esteem satisfaction, enjoying autonomy, experiencing leadership and  sensing opportunity to grow from blue collar to white collar, apart from monetary benefits that they receive as members. The approach is performance driven; hence restrictive work practices like late coming, unauthorised absenteeism, and overtime are automatically taken care of. 

Companies use SDWT by giving it different names. For example, TVS Motor Company in southern India successfully implemented a similar concept, under the name: “Cell Leaders for the teams”. It is easier to implement SDWTs in green field sites. However, in old plants SDWTs may need a different strategy involving a lot of training of the line managers, officers, supervisors and workers including certain monetary benefits. 

(iii) Introducing MOST (Maynard Operations Sequence Technique) based on time standards. MOST is a scientific method of setting time standards and this will involve training the workers, trade union leaders, supervisors, officers and managers plus getting a buy in with the trade union. There are old manufacturing sites in India like Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., Farm Division, Kandivali site in Mumbai that adopted MOST several years back and in their latest wage settlement signed on 13th May 2013, agreed for revised MOST of 5.75 MPH, effective working time of 480 minutes in a shift, thus eliminating the restrictive work practices. 

(iv) Certain restrictive work practices are included in the “Management Charter of Demand”/”Management Imperatives for Implementation” to be negotiated along with the Long Term Wage Settlement with the Trade Unions. These are then negotiated and form part of the settlement, which then need to be implemented.

(v) Total stoppage of overtime on the site. Quite often it is found that overtime is the root cause of the creeping in of restrictive work practices. Once overtime
becomes assured additional source of income, workers, especially in maintenance department, keep the job incomplete, so that they can earn overtime. Workers realize that the plant management cannot have smooth functioning without overtime, and hence, practices of “demand for equal overtime without looking at need of the type of work”  commence. Stoppage of overtime not only eliminates bad practices but losses come to surface on which the management can act. The overtime culture also leads to nauthorised
absence including leave without pay. 

(vi) Certain restrictive work practices are reduced/eliminated by enforcing the contract of employment and the rules governing employment; turbulences emerging because of enforcement are faced by the site management and effectively handled. 

(vii) Certain restrictive work practices are not touched and permitted to continue, as the site management is presently agreeable to live with it. 

(viii) Setting up a new manufacturing site at a different location and ensuring that none of the restrictive work practices creep in. Over a period of time, the old manufacturing site is closed. This will also involve reducing the workforce through voluntary retirement schemes from the old manufacturing site.

(ix) Improving employee involvement, building a positive work culture through intensive worker and supervisory development programmes, involving learning on the calculations of product cost, quality and safety, and explaining how restrictive practices affect the product cost. Explaining how higher product cost deters market share as the same product is made available by competitors at lower price. Also making workers to participate in teams for reducing manufacturing cost, improving quality and productivity. 

Ensuring that the restrictive work practices are reduced/eliminated, over a period of time. Ensuring workers participate in all shop floor activities, owning the process and achieving a total cultural change. This is a transformation process and a very time consuming approach in old manufacturing plants; however, this is easy in green field plant.

(x) In the beginning of every month, previous month’s financial performance analysis of the plant is presented by the manufacturing chief to all, including workers and their leaders, so as to involve and keep them informed on monthly performance parameters of the plant. 

This greatly helps in building transparency and trust for working out solutions to improve productivity and reduce restrictive work practices. 

Role of Top Management

Non-achievement in obtaining the maximum output from installed capacity of plant and machinery in a manufacturing plant results in the unit manufacturing cost of the products produced going up. This is an opportunity cost concept of loosing capacity. Efforts need to be made by the top management in the long term interest of the establishment by reducing/eliminating restrictive work practices, which result in not only restricting the output but also increasing the unit cost of the products produced. Manufacturing plants are converters of raw material into finished products. But many old manufacturing plants in India in the post- 1991 period have strategically outsourced manufacturing of components to sub assemblies and in some cases even the final product to micro, small and medium enterprises, so as to reduce the unit manufacturing cost of the final product. 

The role of top management in reinforcing discipline in old manufacturing plants cannot be substituted by the suggestions given earlier on solving the restrictive work practices. If we do the PDCA (i.e. Plan, Do, Check and Act) cycle on why (i.e. cause analysis) such restrictive work related practices crept in; at the top of the pareto analysis will emerge the condoning of indiscipline to avoid facing turbulence. This short term strategy of buying peace, to keep the plant running at any cost so as not in any way jeopardise the existing level of output, results in the plant operating at suboptimal capacity. In the history of an organization, it is also essential at times to take hard and tough decisions to reduce/eliminate the restrictive practices by enforcing discipline, when other approaches such as advice and dialogue fail. This is clearly the responsibility of the top management, and its approach towards such issues decides the future of the enterprise. Normally we blame the shop floor supervisors/line managers for restrictive work practices creeping in,  but if these shop floor supervisors/ line managers have clarity on the top management approach and thinking, then the restrictive practices can be prevented when they start.

There are top managements of enterprises that are presently using technical aids like closed circuit television (CCTV) for capturing the critical operations and working on the shop floor for taking corrective steps and ensuring no wastage. There are sites where the plant layout is so designed that the cafeteria is near the place of work, so as to avoid people going out of the shop floor for tea, snacks and food. 

There are enterprises where shop floor supervisors/line managers are well trained, so that they act as an “early warning system” to identify and report the start of any restrictive practice and curb it immediately. If corrective action is taken immediately, proliferation can be prevented. It is also essential to impart training and education to shop floor supervisors/line managers, workers and trade union leaders on productivity techniques, labour laws and skills on dealing with seniors, peers and juniors working in the  manufacturing plant. 


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