Do IT companies recruit techie's for fun?

Monday, April 7, 2008

The recent moves by a few IT firms retrenching their employees have once again triggered the question on the relevance of trade unions for IT/ITeS staff in India.

Though such moves to sack alleged "non-performers" based on internal appraisals are normal practice, there are voices that hint at the need for unity among IT employees.

The unity among IT employees is almost non-existent now. An exception may be a rare procession taken out by techies in Bangalore when tragedy struck one among them, like in the Pratibha Srikanth Murthy murder case.

However, such unity – though in small measures – is short-lived. Following Pratibha's murder, IT professionals staged a protest before the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Bangalore – a favorite and convenient place for protesters of almost all hues. Not much development followed such protests.

Incidentally, in West Bengal, an Information Technology Services Association (WBITSA) was formed in 2006, under the auspices of the Center of India Trade Unions. It lost steam in the initial days itself and is now confined to call centers.

When the WBITSA was formed, the pros and cons of trade unions in IT sector were widely discussed, with most of the firms in the industry taking a firm stand against such unions.

With IBM, TCS and Yahoo booting out employees reportedly terming them as non-performers, the question whether trade unions are necessary in the IT sector is gaining currency.

VGK Nair, the secretary of the Karnataka unit of the Communist Party of India - Marxist, laments that employees from the IT sector are not willing to come forward to create an organization so as to ensure their well-being.

However, he hastened to add that the formation of a union for IT employees is his personal opinion, which needs to be deliberated upon in his party forums.

R Karthik Shekhar of the Union for Information Technology & Enabled Services (UNITES) Professionals, a Bangalore-based apolitical trade union, is more forthcoming, though there are constraints for UNITES to interfere in the recent issue of sacking employees.

Speaking on employees' unity, Shekhar says, "Employees themselves are not united in this issue (firms sacking staff). There is a strong need for the employees to be united and it becomes easy for us to address this issue.

" IT firms sacking employees is not just a concern of an individual or those who were asked to leave. "

No one is bothered about the repercussions it has over an employee, the kind of stress and frustration, his financial commitments and its effect on family," Shekhar says.

He further added: "There is a need for the employees to be treated humanely."

He says that even as employees are asked to leave, job advertisements by the same companies could be seen.

"Why recruit and waste money on new employees, rather than training the old ones. Further, when they recruit they follow their rules and regulations. Do they recruit for fun?

" A leading financial daily on Friday reported that Yahoo, which fired at least 40 of its staff in Bangalore, "insists that it's continuing to hire at least 60-80 people a month. And outside the US, Bangalore is its most significant location.

" As if in an afterthought, Shekher observes: "Companies always fail to understand. It will be like a sabzi mandi out there; companies negotiating the salaries of the employees with pink slip stamp on their resumes. Employees find it hard to find another job. This we have seen happening. It is just like political horse-trading; its just another kind of horse-trading in IT companies."

A 2007 study undertaken by UNITES titled Union Formation in India Call Centers/BPO - The Attitudes and Experiences of UNITES members, has pointed at the fear factor that makes employees stay away from any unions.

"Indian ITeS employees fear termination from work if they join trade unions," the study has said. Interestingly, the study also has mentioned that more than 57 per cent of ITeS companies opposed to UNITES, and a similar number, were ready to offer higher salaries in order to prevent employees from joining a trade union.

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