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Early Separation Scheme (ESS) – A Game changer
TSL proposed a brilliant Early Separation Scheme (ESS) to manage the wage situation. Under this scheme, the entire workforce was divided into three segments. For age group greater than 55 years, they would continue to get their existing salary until the company retirement age of 61 years. Those between 45 and 55, would get 1.2x to 1.5x their salary until retirement. The rest (less than 45) would get 1.5x their wages until retirement. If they passed away before retirement, their families would continue to receive full payment until the retirement date. Also, free medical services to people and families living in Jamshedpur and free medical insurance for people living outside Jamshedpur.
Singh, then deputy president of the union called it the best workforce scheme in India. The management aimed at retaining high performing people. Industry peers were shocked at this and joked around that either TSL has too much money or too little brain. However, as usual, Ratan Tata was not at all bothered.
One would think how this process was helpful, considering the massive pay-outs for good number of years. The key savings for TSL was not caring about the constant increase in salaries due to inflation and market parameters, instead focussing on only the fixed salaries to be given till retirement. Over and above the savings in PF, payroll duties and free housing facilities contributed towards a long-term cost optimization.
This was a decade long exercise and target was to bring down the number to 40k from 80k.However, the management made sure that this figure was never disclosed as it might cause an uproar in the labour unions at that time.
ESS scheme was a revolutionary step in TSL’s journey. By 2006, the labour force had come down to 38,000. In just a decade, over 40k workers had left and that too happily. Of these, 10k were through attrition or retirement, and death. The rest of the workers accepted the scheme. It was unheard-of in the corporate world where workforce left the company year after year, without any uproar or fall in production. The workers used to celebrate their last day the company through a feast.
This was considered as one of the iconic decisions by any company to downsize its workforce and had featured in the Forbes in 2012. This stood out at par with landmark initiates taken by iconic companies like Apple, Ford, etc.
Apart from the curtailment in workforce, this step brought this company a lot of international goodwill. These practices do come at a short-term financial costs but do serve as strong case studies for many companies to emulate. In order to take such moves, leadership should be strong and should not fear about the opinions of other corporate leaders.
Tata Steel’s Acquisitions Spree
Tata Steel Corus Acquisition – Failure or Success: The constant UK love of Tatas
In 2007, when TSL acquired Corus, things looked good on paper. In the first year, Corus made a billion pounds of EBITDA. What followed in 2008 was something no one imagined (The Global Financial Crisis). The European markets took a very long time to stabilize & recover.
When TSL acquired Corus, it was 18 MTPAa facility. That was brought down to 11 MTPA through sale of struggling assets and restructuring.
What went wrong?
At the time of acquisition, TSL in India was 4 MTPA and Corus was 18 MTPA. So, it was always an uphill task for TSL to take care of an enormous 18 MTPA operation which was spiralling downwards.
Lessons Learnt the Hard way – Aspirational Mistake?
Some also argue that it was Cyrus Mistry (during the management transition) who highlighted these concerns in a broader way. The Corus acquisition was one of the biggest legacies of the Ratan Tata era. In the end, as JJ Irani pointed, Corus as an Aspirational Mistake.
In part 3 of this case study, we dive deeper into Digital Initiatives at Tata Steel facilities and will also see how the new CEO is steering TSL for the next leg of its growth – especially with the acquisition of stressed steel plants. Do Check Part 3
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