The pandemic has brought employees’ health and safety to the front and centre making it the top priority for employers. In fact, to ensure they cover all bases, many organisations have decided to take the full onus of employee medical costs on themselves, should any member get infected.
Like most, the 45-year old Indian company manufacturing technical textile, Garware Technical Fibres, has committed to providing full coverage of medical expenses, above and beyond the usual coverage provided by the medical insurance to its employees. In case any employee contracts the COVID-19 virus, the organisation has promised to cover all treatment costs till the last mile. All permanent employees, numbering around 1300, will benefit from this policy.
Being a traditional manufacturing company, the sudden lockdown was a tough change. However, the Company seems to have come out of it. Operations at Garware’s plants in Pune and Wai, in Maharashtra, are back on track. The plants are running at 100 per cent capacity, albeit in a staggered manner of working, and workers come in as per need.
One of our key corporate values is to enhance our family bond with the employees through equitable dealings and constant communication
The Company has been fortunate to have most of its contract workforce available to work immediately. It employs close to 3000 contract workers, and currently, almost 2500 are available to work in the plants. Most of them are working at the plant in Wai. Ravendra Mishra, head – human capital, Garware Technical Fibres, says that the Wai plant is spread across a large area and it sources its contract workers from the neighbouring villages.
Mishra explains that recovering the contract workforce was not as tough for them as it has been for most manufacturing industries, as the workers are all local Maharashtrians and live near the facility.
Right after work began at the plants, the Company witnessed the unfortunate demise of a couple of its workers infected with the virus. Since then, it has been extra cautious about the safety and health regulations followed on the shop floor and has deployed core teams at both facilities to oversee and ensure that safety norms are followed. With immediate effect, the Company was able to deploy contact tracing and isolate members who needed to be quarantined to prevent further cases.
From the very start, Garware’s will to support its employees has been strong. Within a week of the lockdown, the managing director of the Company, Vayu R Garware, reached out to the Garware family through an all-hands meeting . “One of our key corporate values is to enhance our family bond with the employees through equitable dealings and constant communication,” emphasises Mishra. Since then, the Company has conducted three such sessions with all the employees. During the months when plant operations were suspended, contract workers in the Company were paid their basic salary, which was a huge financial support for them. Regular salaries have paid for all employees during this time as well as promotions being meted out to deserving candidates.
Speaking on the industrial skills for the future, Mishra mentions that it is difficult to generalise for the entire sector however majority of the industries in the manufacturing sector will be compelled towards a shift. “Upgrading the manufacturing processes with better automation apart from higher level of IT-enablement in work processes is the need of the hour. It’s certainly going to change at higher pace in near future. Moreover, cost-benefit will be the guiding principle in the long run. It’s difficult to generalize but majority of the industries in manufacturing sector will have the shift as a compelling factor”, says Mishra.
On the hiring side, the Company has put off active hiring from the market till the situation normalises. However, Mishra mentions that they are carrying on with replacement hiring as there has been some attrition recently.