- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Another interview

Posted by: Gee ( si ) on August 04, 1999 at 12:16:55:

In Reply to: Revelations...[Take II, sorry....] posted by Red Deathy on August 03, 1999 at 18:20:36:

: I just want to highlight a couple of illuminating points that the interview reveals about how a capitalist business is run...

Lets take that pinch of salt here and proceed. Generalising from a sample of one is a dubious practice.

: EM: Well, [Their HQ- RD]they have, they are very aloof about it, I mean you know they--in Park Avenue what we have is lawyers and MBAs, I mean you know--nobody knows anything about building plants or engineering or anything, and they allow the engineers to have free reign on what they do, I mean really. So engineers, the engineering department in Charleston is sort of Mafia very inbred group of buddies that are very jealous of their perogatives and do the things the way they want and this scenario with the foreign companies have very little to say, as you know the foreign affiliates have very little to say. If they want South Charleston to build the plant they have to sort of accept the ways of choice and operate it. Operate it, I don't say I don't know if they
: operate the same way today, I hope not. At that time they have, they have their, they were pretty authoritarian.

Note this, which focusses directly on the problem of who made up the management.

"Robert Berzok, a 14 year veteran of Union Carbide who was responsible for employee communications at the time of the crisis and is now director of corporate communications, eschews simple-minded criticism of the pre-Bhopal Carbide. In the early days, he says, the company had one worldwide standard for safety and was considered one of the safest in the industry. If there was a fault, he says, it was one common to many chemical companies, the preeminence of scientists and engineers in the management structure."

The last line is telling of many companies - the poeple who are technically competent in the companies line of business (whether it be chemicals, insurance, whatever) end up in charge rather than professional business managers.

: A good illustration of the way in which the top management aren't really in charge, and realy, perhaps don't deserve their obscene pay. Further, though, the interview illustrates the way in whci capitalist firms are prone to the same empire building as all fiscally-budget based bureaucracies...

....all groups of poeple acting within a given structure being prone to this - its not fiscal or capital specific.

anyway - here is the rest

Berzok recalls the reaction at the company's Danbury headquarters as news reports began to trickle in from India: When we first heard in the early morning hours what had happened, the report was that there were ten dead. Then 30. When we heard the number 30, that seemed like a huge number, unthinkable. Then, within 48 hours, the toll had risen to a thousand. The whole
company was in shock.

Initially, the company focused all its energies of keeping all the audiences impacted by the disaster informed. The list, Berzok points out, is an extensive one: the people of Bhopal; other communities in which the company did business; customers; shareholders; employees; regulators and legislators. Moreover, the company had to deal with these groups not only in the U.S. and India but globally.
Chairman Warren Anderson, who responded memorably by flying immediately to the scene of the disaster, where he was promptly arrested, spent almost every waking moment for the next two years, until his retirement, dealing with Bhopal and trying to help the victims.

Eventually, however, Carbide turned its attention internally, where morale was shattered. Employees were faced with going to social gatherings, and on the one hand wanting to speak out about the company they worked for, which they knew was not the company being portrayed in the media,
and on the other hand being embarrassed at being associated with this disaster, Berzok says.

Meanwhile, the company continued to fight a legal battle with the Indian government. Carbide, which determined that the cause of the leak was employee sabotage, tried to defend itself on that basis. For the most part, the defense fell on deaf ears. The assumption seemed to be that the multinational conglomerate was seeking a scapegoat.

Follow Ups:

The Debating Room Post a Followup