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Grievance Handling

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Grievance Handling
Grievance is defined as ‘cause for complaint or annoyance’. Before the machine age, when a handful of workers worked directly for an employer, grievance handling was a one-step procedure : the worker directly approached his boss who gave a decision on the issue. The machine age has introduced a vast echelon of intermediary supervision between the principal employer and the rank-and-file worker. Increase in the number of workers and supervisors in a complicated industrial unit, has led to an increased number of grievances of varying types at different levels. No longer can an employer nonchalantly brush aside the problem of handling grievances as a trivial function. Those who have done so have reaped the whirlwind.
A grievance is the embryo of more serious trouble to come, and whether real or imagincary, it is a canker in the organisation and calls for prompt and effective measures. If it is real, the need for curative action is obvious; if it is imaginary, the need to explain and clear up the atmosphere is all the more imperative.
Prompt and effective handing of grievances is the key to industrial peace. In our country particularly, where illiteracy is high and people from villagers seek employment in the laien atmosphere of an industrial unit, grievances are many and varied. Operations, procedures and supervisory techniques are not easily understood and lead to grievances. An induction programme coupled with a well understood and sound grievance procedure is a must if we wish to achieve our production targets.

The grievance handling function
Grievance handling is not the monopoly of a specialist or by a functional department. We may need a functional department, such as, the personnel department to lay down the procedure and to advise on, its administration, but the successful working of the grievance-handling machinery is the responsibility of each and every line-supervisor. Any scheme which does not recognise this fact doomed to failure.
Pre-requisites
Before introducing a formal grievance procedure, there are certain essential pre-requisites which to be attended to. * Honesty of Purpose – A grievance procedure, or in fact any other procedure, will not yield the desired results unless the employer’s hands are ‘clean’. An enlightened and honest employer can use it as in effective tool in building up a contented and happy labour force. An unscrupulous, corrupt and exploiting management seeking to use it as a facade will soon find at its cost that it is a double edged tool. The Indian worker, in spite of his illiteracy, is quick to sense insincerity. Judging and observing the attitude and action of his employer over a long period, he forms a picture of, what we may call the management mind. * Codification of rules – next to honesty of purpose, an essential pre-requisite is the existence of codified and well understood rules and regulations. In many industrial units we find the organisation administered by means of ad-hoc circulars and decisions given from time to time. This often leads to: * Inconsistent decisions: since the directive is person-centred and ad-hoc, one is apt to tailor a principle to suit a decision rather than vice-versa * Discrimination: since supervision at various levels would want to exploit the above inconsistency and play hooky with rules, the worker would also seek a ruling to favour his own case and would harbour a grievance if he were not given the advantage * Ignorance: due to non-availability of compact codified rules under one cover, the supervisor is apt to slip up in the application of rules. The worker has much less of an access to these documents affecting him and suffers from a sense of uncertainty
Having codified rules and regulations, the management should see that all levels of supervision understand them and have easy access to a printed copy in the shape of say, a foreman’s manual.

* Delegation – a grievance procedure can function effectively only if it is administered by an organisation where authority has been delegated to various levels of line-management. Unless this is done, there is a tendency to short-circuit the procedure, as the worker and the union see no point in conducting negotiations with, or seeking redressal at a level which does not have the authority to give a decision on the issue. The following principles should guide management in preparing instruments of delegation for various levels of supervision – * Authority delegated to a supervisor should be commensurate with responsibility to be discharged by him * The degree of delegation should be proportional to the availability of effective controls * A supervisor should be accountable only to the person who delegates authority and responsibility to him, and * The instrument of delegation should be in writing and should clearly define the responsibility and authority to be delegated.
The pre-requisites have been mentioned in some detail as they are very necessary for the smooth and effective functioning of a grievance procedure.

Grievance Procedure
There is no standard method of handing grievances. The procedure varies depending upon the industry, local conditions and historical background. Until recently hardly any industry had a written grievance procedure worth the name. In smaller firms the workers make a direct approach to the top boss who very often, without consulting the line supervisors below, gives a decision on the issue. Apart from the fact that such a spot-decision is not always objective and correct, it considerably undermines the morale of the line supervisor.
In the larger industries, conditions are worse. With the growth of an industry, there is the growth of an informal organisation resulting in several levels entertaining grievance simultaneously; for example, an employee with a grievance tries to seek redressal by simultaneously approaching the various levels shown below. The administrative confusion could well be imagined.
UNION COMMITTEE MEMBER Foreman Employee Personnel Officer
UNION SECRETARY With Grievance
UNION PRESIDENT

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