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Pink slips, salary cuts, fallout of global crisis

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DESPAIR AND CHEER: Laid-off Jet Airways employees heave a sigh of relief (right) when they were asked to report for duty.
DESPAIR AND CHEER: Laid-off Jet Airways employees heave a sigh of relief (right) when they were asked to report for duty.

The situation demands greater understanding and maturity from employers and employees

The social responsibility of a corporate citizen, especially in periods of crises, cannot be simply wished away in the Indian context.

When the going gets tough, the meek merely surrenders. How else could one describe the suspension and the subsequent reinstatement of the Jet Airways employees? Scores of Jet workmen should be heaving a big sigh of relief. Did Naresh Goel give in to pressure? Or, did he do it on his own volition? Even as the debate rages on this subject comes news of Kingfisher slashing drastically the salaries of trainee pilots. Reports also suggest that many a software major has put on hold promotions for the time being.

The country is entering a new phase, where pink slips and salary cuts could be the order of the day. Are they a painful fallout of the global meltdown? Or, do they merely reflect the insensitivity of the private enterprise, which had a fairly free run in an era where the organised union had been pushed to oblivion?

In a boom situation, human resource is the most sought-after constituency. Consequently, the price is dictated by the sheer supply-demand mismatch.

None complains when salaries and perks move in a unidirectional way — up and up only. And, the enterprise, too, doesn’t mind paying the asking price as it chases more business. As it triggers a competitive wooing of human capital, protagonists of organised labour movements are pushed to the periphery. And, their voice is drowned in the hustle-bustle of rising business activity. The situation is turning topsy-turvy now.

As an avalanche of bad news from within and outside the country hits the domestic enterprise, it reacts. It reacts in such a way that instantly hits the social fibre of the system. If rewards are directly proportionate to the risk, none should grudge the high wage islands in the system. In the same way, risk-takers should be prepared to the downside of an enterprise as well.

The Jet episode has thrown up two-way arguments. The ‘why us?’ cry by Jet workmen, no doubt, has found a fair number of sympathetic takers.

The other side of the divide, which believes in pro-market economy, has this interesting counter question. None asks “why me?” when they get more money and perks in a boom time.

Ideally, you can’t have the cake and eat it too. Looking things from a simplistic perspective is not always the right way. In a country like India with a population of over a billion people, such simple logic has to contend with a complicated societal framework. This is illustrated best by the owner of a reasonably-sized banking software product company in Chennai who consistently spurned several offers from big multinational companies to sell his shares in the company. He could have walked laughing all the way to the bank if he had done so. But he didn’t. His firm has employed quite a number of well-qualified physically challenged professionals. He does not want to put their jobs at stake by selling the company. The social responsibility of a corporate citizen, especially in periods of crises, cannot be simply wished away in the Indian context.

Security, major concern

The situation, as it is evolving, demands greater understanding and maturity from both sides — employers and employees. In former times, security was the primary concern of a job-seeker.

In the post-liberalisation period and following globalisation, compensation became the driving factor for job-hunters.

The global meltdown may see the return of ‘security consideration’ on top of the agenda of job-seekers. As all stake-holders face survival issue, an accommodative approach becomes very critical.

K.T. JAGANNATHAN


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