An intermittent hiss was all that was left of the horrifying trade tragedy. Tortured metal and dying embers lay scattered around the stunned space that once held a thriving medical drug assembly line. Nobody had seen it coming.
Not only did the labor torch their own factory and facilities, some of the senior staff were manhandled by the workers of the Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company. One senior manager and several supervisors had gone up in flames with their offices, charred beyond recognition. Some rioters had been taken into judicial custody even as the Trade Minister mouthed platitudes about continued faith in the country’s ability to protect investments.
In all the hullabaloo of the aftermath, an open letter had surfaced. It was addressed to the General Manager, Human Resources.
Dear Sir Ji,
I hear there is a search warrant in my name but I will be on the train to somewhere as you read this.
It is presumptuous of me to write this note. You are a global businessman while I am only an old faithful wanting to make one last good gesture to the company that made me who I am.
For some time now, I had been trying to reach you about the change in the air around us. It was not just the lock down after eighteen hours of work that exhausted me. It was the looks of accusation from my subordinates that bothered me more. I had begun to avoid the sales staff, fearing the resentment in their eyes at overwork, bad pay, verbal slurs and sycophancy. I had come to feel unsafe in what had been home for twenty seven years.
But nobody in the management was listening.
I know a thing or two about the good workers. They are so heavily invested in their productivity, they have very little negotiating space. It is the reason you must not push them over the edge. A tiny shift in the mental gears and one of them can go ping.
Please do not bring up labour reforms or the politicization of trade unions here. Human beings are fragile and a man can lose his will. I wouldn’t have known this of myself but here is how I acted on automaton the day of the fire.
I saw Ram Yadav on my way out of the factory. He was in a huddle with three police constables outside the boundary wall, right next to our guard room. They were signalling furtively towards the service lane. Their body language frightened me and I skirted away. Once safely inside my car, I turned back for a look. A tight knot of torch bearers was hovering nervously at the far end of the lane. My hand went instinctively towards my phone to punch your number. But then, guess what. My limbs took on a life of their own. I reached for the ignition key and turned it, replacing the instrument on the dashboard. Who was I to get involved?!
You have to admit. This was a massive management failure. I don’t know if the board is every going to acknowledge or appreciate the ongoing personal and economic costs to those injured and bereaved.
Goodbye Sir Ji. I will contact you next when my workplace tragedy support group is ready. Who would have thought?
No longer yours,
Deserter by design