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 momentum: around 4,000 employees went on strike at the Indian subsidiary at seven locations.
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 and managers had long since been denied access to the plants. Strikebreakers were threatened by the striking employees and the Indian CFO ended up in hospital with significant 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 guides crisis management through the employee strike
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, crisis management had to clarify the following points:
Are the plants at the seven locations still standing at all?
What does the union want to achieve?
Who's interested in the arguments?
What do India's Economic Affairs Ministers and Labour Commissioners want at the sites?
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, one must always keep an eye on all sides. The European parent company must also be convinced of proposed solutions and compromises by the external crisis management. Without skilful communication and subtle strategy, it will not be possible to implement the measures.
Confident organization and communication provides persuasion
There is no getting around a crisis team on the ground - persuasion cannot always be achieved from a distance. Supported by a European crisis manager on site, a communication link was established. A connection was established between the Indian locations 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 sheet a few weeks after the employee strike
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, the project took up 4.8 million.
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.