CII CASE STUDY-8: Faced with a Flash-point

TATA MOTORS Incident Report - Pantnagar Work Stoppage due to Natural Death of an employee while on duty

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in a Report on Good People Management Practices has compiled real-life case studies of organisational initiatives to inculcate best practices in the industry. This Case Study relates to an incident at Tata Motors at its Pantnagar plant and how the plant handled the situation and learnt lessons from it

Brief Summary of the Incident
Day of Incident: (28th April 2018)
  • One of our industrial trainees, Sandeep Vishwakarma, working in the power train was on his regular ‘B’ shift duty but exchanged his shift to ‘A’ for personal reasons.
  • As a regular practice, all blue-collar workforce come to the canteen to have their breakfast. As per routine, Sandeep Vishwakarma also had his breakfast and moved to the shop floor.
  • He attended the morning meeting at the shop floor Assy point.
  • He collapsed at the second meeting he attended with the Team leader at Assy point.
  • First, he complained about feeling uneasy to his co-worker and the co-worker supported him and made him sit, but he collapsed. Water was sprinkled on his face and immediately an ambulance was called from the Occupational Health Centre.
  • The ambulance came and the person was taken to the Occupational Health Centre.
  • In the ambulance itself, a male nurse Mr. Kandpal checked his pulse rate which was very low so he was immediately taken to the “Futela Hospital” where it was recommended that the patient is critical be taken to another hospital. He was then taken to “Medicity” where the doctor declared him dead post ECG.
  • His body was moved to the Government hospital for postmortem and the family was intimated regarding the same. Mr. Dinesh Arya (Union president), ER team, Company Medical Officer, Security officer, Safety officer, Factory Head Mr. Gururani were all present in the hospital.
Second Day of Incident: (29th April 2018)
  • The local police visited the hospital, did the panchnama and moved the body to the mortuary.
  • The family members arrived at midnight. They were taken to the mortuary and were shown his body with special approval from the police.
  • The Government doctor initiated the process of postmortem but a few co-worker trainees - about 20 in numbers - demanded a compensation of Rs.25 lakh as financial support, a permanent job for his brother and pension to his family members.
  • Mr. Dinesh Arya (Union president), ER team, Company Medical Officer, Security officer, Safety officer, Department Head Mr. Gururani all counseled the agitated workers and pacified them.
  • Co-workers demanded calling of the Plant Head at the postmortem venue to have a meeting with the family members for confirming their demands before accepting the body, but somehow they were able to counsel them and brought them to the factory premises for a meeting with the Plant Head.
  • During the process of postmortem, the agitation was on, the mob of 20 increased to 70-80 in numbers. Then they invited the sitting MLA of Kichha - Mr. Rajesh Shukla who played a positive role and convinced them to trust the company.
Second and Third Day of Incident: (29th April 2018- 30th April 2018)
  • Plant Head along with the HR Head and union president met the family at the Plant Head Office. Plant Head expressed sympathy, comforted the bereaved family, and assured the best possible support according to the norms and policies of the company. The deceased’s father and brother agreed for the same in the presence of the union president and they returned to the mortuary to accept the body of the deceased.
  • An ambulance was arranged to carry the deceased and another vehicle for his family members and they moved back to their native place Bhadohi.
  • The funeral rites were done on Monday 30.04.2018
  • Simultaneously, an agitation was initiated in the first shift by the co-workers and the incident was reported to the highest level from the plant from time to time.
Action Initiated to restart the Plant
  • Identification of trouble makers was made with the help of CCTV footage, and other sources of social media by the plant team
  • Report of FIR made for the 11 identified persons at the Police station and another suspected 15 people in a supplementary report.
  • Termination of contract of 121 people was forwarded through courier/post.
  • Declaration of Block closure for four days (02.05.2018 to 05.05.2018) was made.
  • Notification sent through a press release about the injunction and discontinuation of services of 121 identified agitators.
  • A parallel process to sign a settlement with the legal heirs was carried out and completed in the presence of ALC.
  • A format of good conduct undertaking was developed with the help of the legal team.
  • Employees were intimated to come to the plant from 4th May.
  • The same was intimated through local administration and the union and all the trainees were asked to rejoin subject to the signing of a good conduct undertaking.
  • The process was initiated on 04.05.2018 and it went off smoothly.
  • 2618 employees have rejoined by signing the undertaking of good conduct.
  • The plant is operating efficiently since 07.05.2018
Possible reasons for agitation
  • Uneven distribution of workforce composition.
  • NEEM scheme did not take off effectively because of vendor inefficiency
  • Uneven distribution of trainees in accordance with demography
  • Prima facie the trainees felt that they were discriminated against as compared to the permanent workforce.
  • The mob was scattered without a leader
  • Agitators had inadequate knowledge of labor laws and other information.
  • Joining of B-shift trainees/temp added the number
  • Absence of policy from the company side for such incidents
  • Absence of belongingness with the company among the agitators.
Way Forward
  • Restructuring of the workforce composition and reduction of industrial trainee numbers.
  • Induction of NEEM against industrial trainees.
  • Induction of temporary employees against industrial trainees.
  • Identifying activities either for outsourcing or support with contract labour.
  • Written down policy for similar cases, both natural and accidental made part of the joining briefing.
  • Informal/formal communication mechanism for continuous communication with temp/trainees and permanent employees.
  • Strengthening the medical team and infrastructure.
  • Develop internal security vigilance team.
  • Flexi workforce structure to be demographically balanced.
  • Focus on contract labor compliance, facility, mechanism to address their grievance to avoid any such incidence.
  • Provision of employee mutual benefit scheme exclusively for death cases to be developed uniformly across Tata Motors.
  • Identified 26 people’s location/ITIs and avoiding recruitment going forward from those locations/ITIs.
  • Antecedent verification and local police support for background verification.