It is not always possible to avoid an employee strike in your own company. Grievances and misunderstandings can also lead to this. But also the influence of external persons.
In this case, the strike developed its own dynamics: the Indian subsidiary was struck at seven locations by around 4,000 employees.
At the time of the intervention, the strike had already been raging for 11 months and the Indian sites were disconnected from the European headquarters. The server connection had been cut, managers had long since been denied access to the plants. Strikebreakers were threatened and the Indian CFO ended up in hospital with serious injuries. It was simply no longer possible for the parent company to assess the situation.
Outside influence, in this case, has penetrated right into the company: A far-left Leninist-Marxist Trade Union, considered aggressive, has taken control.
Joint decision-making by an informal negotiator
Without influencing the striking workforce and ending the disputes, the management at the European headquarters feared far-reaching consequences. In addition to further physical escalations, the destruction of the plants and ultimately a termination of activities in India were to be avoided.
A joint decision by an emissary should resolve the strike and lead to a lasting solution.
A neutral view leads crisis management
In an emergency situation, only one thing helps: keeping a cool head. A neutral, external coordinator can assess the situation without being personally involved. In this case, the following points had to be clarified:
- On-site inventory: Are the plants at the seven locations still standing at all?
- Exploration of interests: What does the union want to achieve?
- Examination of external influences: Who's interested in the arguments?
- Political Influences: What do Indian Business Ministers and Labour Commissioners want at the sites?
- search for compromises
- Agreement on solutions without litigation
A total budget of EUR 7-8 million was available for the implementation of all measures.
In order to compromise and find solutions, the parties involved must first be identified and contacted. In addition to the obvious groups of people such as the Indian trade unions and political figures, former business partners were identified who were fuelling the strike in the background.
As a neutral coordinator and mediator, you always have to keep an eye on all sides. The European parent company must also be convinced of proposed solutions and compromises. Without skilful communication and subtle strategy, it will not be possible to implement the measures.
Sovereign organization and communication does the work of persuasion
There is no getting around a crisis team on site - persuasion cannot always be achieved from a distance. Supported by a European crisis manager on site, it was possible to establish a communication link from the Indian sites and trade unions via the crisis manager to the European headquarters.
Communication with militant trade unions should not be shied away from in such cases either.
Our balance after a few weeks
A restructuring plan was drawn up in the course of the strike settlement: of the seven Indian plants, four will be closed, one will be converted into a transfer company and two will continue to operate in a modernised form. Surrounding land will be sold, developed into a business park and sold to the economic development agency.
Litigation was avoided in this case and the agreement was supported by the union without exception.
In addition, the time and budget targets were exceeded. Instead of the released 7-8 million euros, 4.8 million were used.
What we learned personally?
Opinion in the European head office was more difficult than expected. Too many managers wanted to conceal their own failure - an additional hurdle on the road to agreement. But we were able to overcome that, too.