By Suneetha Deb & Harish Raichandani*
ARAMCO a manufacturing unit, is a part of a large multi-location organisation. It has 4 unions. One of the unions is primarily dominated by the category of employees who were displaced from the land where plant was set up. They had got employment in ARMCO as part of the deal for giving up their land. They have been called the land loser category & they live in the nearby villages. Being a remote location, the plant has its own township attached. Township has a full-fledged medical unit, shopping centre, school, recreation center etc. Largely the unit maintained very peaceful Industrial Relations.
Ramanathan, HR head of ARAMCO was dumbstruck. Suddenly a nice weekend ended up in a gherao. In a sudden turn of the calm and quiet employee relations seemed to be under threat. He wondered - How to deal with this issue? What needed to be done next day?… many more questions floating in his head.
It all started with a telephone call he received. Body of Ramu, a Technician was discovered in a pit next to plant boundary wall. The circumstantial evidence gathered by the IR personnel and technician’s colleagues led them to believe he had climbed a tree outside plant to pluck a mango. The deceased belonged to a village nearby. Ramu was one of the land losers employed by ARAMCO. Slowly family, friends & colleagues gathered outside the township medical unit where the body was kept. Soon the villagers joined and within minutes there was unruly mob. The violent mob was demanding a job for Ramu’s son. Mr. Ramanathan assured them that he would think through their demand, and shut himself into a closed door meeting with his colleagues. He had to consult his superiors. He could not set such a precedence without consultation and approvals from higher ups..
The mob became restless, locked them in the room. He could hear the sounds of furniture being broken in the hospital. The police had to be called employees from the village also appeared to have joined the mob.
He wondered, “What were the union leaders doing?” He had seen a few of them before shutting the door. “Were they also a party to this entire rampage?”
Just then, Manas, the IR officer, who had been on a tour happened to return from Mumbai. He had already received over 15 calls enquiring his whereabouts. He could not believe his eyes when he saw the ransacked shopping centre, broken window-panes and furniture outside hospital. The Security personnel deployed in township appeared to be mute witnesses. The presence of Police also was not helpful either.
His boss was locked in a room in the medical unit. He heard of the demands of villagers. He wondered – ‘is Ramu’s death the only reason for this destruction’ or ‘was it the pent up anger against organisation that created this’. He was aware that the ARAMCO’s proposed SEZ has been a burning issue with community around even while the organisation was busy acquiring land for SEZ.
He had to swing into action immediately. Some immediate actions for the day, perhaps much more tomorrow and something for the long term.
*Case conceptualized by Suneetha Deb, Consultant Potentia
*Harish Raichandani, CEO Potentia