Vishwakarma Engineering Ltd. Is a well managed medium-sized company manufacturing spare parts and structures.

Vishwakarma Engineering Ltd. Is a well managed medium-sized company manufacturing spare parts and structures. It has a workforce of about 750 and is located in the suburbs of Mumbai. Its industrial relations have been, however, strained as there are two rival unions more hostile to each other than to the management. In accordance with the advice of the State Government and the Engineering Association of India, the company decided to pursue workers’ participation in management in its establishment. Anticipating inter-union rivalry and hostility, it was exploring ways and means of how to get the rank and file of workers to develop a willingness to participate in the scheme. As the traditional methods would not have worked the company management decided on innovative methods. They wrote first to both the unions in a friendly language requesting their cooperation to make the scheme a success. They also invited the leaders of both the unions to meet them together or separately, formally or informally to talk without any prejudice to their rights in the collective bargaining area.Both the unions declined to respond formally, but informally the leaders sent word to the management that they would meet them, but separately. Meetings did take place and the management tried to persuade the unions not to oppose the involvement of workers. Then the vexed problem of how to determine the representation of the workers in the joint committees came. The management strongly urged the leaders to accept election. Probably because of fear that secret ballot might reveal the real strength of each of the rival unions, both the unions separately opposed the election.After a lot of thinking, the management offered to have parity of workers nominations between both the unions and this was finally accepted. The scheme has started operating on this basis, and has produced some interesting consequences. The scheme has also contributed to neutralising the inter-union rivalries. The informal dialogue which started on this with the union leaders is also picking up as a regular feature with management playing the role of a mediating influence between the two rival unions.

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