Monday, 17 November 2014

Gandhian approach to industrial relations

Gandhiji can be called one of the greatest labour leaders of modern India. His
approach to labour problems was completely new and refreshingly human. He held
definite views regarding fixation and regulation of wages, organisation and functions
of trade unions, necessity and desirability of collective bargaining, use and abuse of
strikes, labour indiscipline, workers participation in management, conditions of work .
and living, and duties of workers. The Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association, a
unique and successful experiment in Gandhian trade unionism, implemented many of
his ideas.
Gandhiji had immense faith in the goodness of man and he believed that many of the
evils of the modern world have been brought about by wrong systems and not by
wrong individuals. He insisted on recognising each individual worker as a human
being. He believed in non-violent communism, going so far as to say that “if
communism comes without any violence, it would be welcome.”
Gandhiji laid down certain conditions for a successful strike. These are: (a) the cause
of the strike must be just and there should be no strike without a grievance; (b) there
should be no violence; and (c) non-strikers or “blacklegs” should never be molested.
He was not against strikes but pleaded that they should be the last weapon in the
armoury of industrial workers and hence should not be resorted to unless all peaceful
and constitutional methods of negotiations, conciliation and arbitration are exhausted.
His concept of trusteeship is a significant contribution in the sphere of industrial
relations. According to him, employers should not regard themselves as sole owners of
mills and factories of which they may be the legal owners. They should regard
themselves only as trustees, or co-owners. He also appealed to the workers to behave
as trustees, not to regard the mill and machinery as belonging to the exploiting agents
but to regard them as their own, protect them and put to the best use they can. In
short, the theory of trusteeship is based on the view that all forms of property and
human accomplishments are gifts of nature and as such, they belong not to any one
individual but to society. Thus, the trusteeship system is totally different from other
contemporary labour relations systems. It aimed at achieving economic equality and
the material advancement of the “have-nots” in a capitalist society by non-violent
means.
Gandhiji realised that relations between labour and management can either be a
powerful stimulus to economic and social progress or an important factor in economic
and social stagnation. According to him, industrial peace was an essential condition
not only for the growth and development of the industry itself, but also in a great
measure, for the improvement in the conditions of work and wages. At the same time,
he not only endorsed the workers’ right to adopt the method of collective bargaining
but also actively supported it. He advocated voluntary arbitration and mutual
settlement of disputes. He also pleaded for perfect understanding between capital and
labour, mutual respect, recognition of equality, and strong labour organisation as the
essential factors for happy and constructive industrial relations. For him, means and
ends are equally important .