The great challenge of labor reform lies in the most profound element of change: today workers have the opportunity to participate with their vote to decide on their representatives, their union organization and their conditions as a result of a collective contract review. In other words, we went from a completely passive and even indifferent collaborators role to one of total involvement in the most sensitive issues of their work. The question is how prepared are they to take it on responsibly and conscientiously.
The above is not a minor issue, the impact of a salary or benefits review on the labor cost of many sectors of the industry in Mexico is really significant. Until today, this was seen as a competitive advantage of the country added to the flexibility in the contracting and operation schemes, referring for example to the length of the day, the management of overtime, the termination of employment contracts, etc.
The problem is that for a long time this passive role has resulted in a lack of information and sensitivity of workers about market conditions and the businesses in which they participate. That is why we saw that movements like 20/32 in Matamoros conquered many with their usual consequences.
But additionally, there is the risk that pressure actions such as strikes are seen as effective mechanisms for obtaining better conditions, when they really become threats to the stability of companies and, therefore, to the jobs, without neglecting the negative impact on the level of foreign capital investment that has historically strengthened the industry in Mexico.
Faced with this scenario, we need to develop a work culture more mature, and what mechanism is more effective to develop the criteria of workers than to make them participants and promoters of improvement proposals, focused on their work environment, productivity and working conditions?
Now, it is not only about opening the “Pandora’s Box”, participation requires structured schemes that are part of the company culture, in this sense we identify three key elements:
- Ensure that employees understand the context of the problems they face. If people truly understand the impact of their proposals on the company’s bottom line and the implications of doing or not doing something, they will surely come up with sensible alternatives. The challenge will be to treat them like adults and prepare them to propose and decide by sharing the information they need.
- Develop profit improvement schemes based on productivity, seeking a healthy balance between the conditions of the people and those of the business. When a worker learns that improvements in his conditions come from better results, he manages to understand that the company is not a box of money that you only have to pressure to get more.
- Have a strong participation platform. If we leave this to chance, no actual monitoring or listening, it doesn’t work. If we want the scheme to really help prevent conflicts, it requires hard work of monitoring and managing the proposals, not just Human Resources, the organization has to be involved from the highest level. Suggestion box systems are ineffective in some cases, because nobody does anything with it and people end up frustrated, or if they are reviewed, not necessarily the collaborators are involved in the decision and implementation. For this reason, committing to a participation scheme that is really a decompression valve for conflicts or labor problems requires a transformation in the work culture of the business.
With an increasingly complex context, the best “Occupational vaccine” it is in strengthening the connection of workers with companies. So if you still do not have participation schemes and real listening from collaborators, you will have to prepare yourself to deal with complaints.