Stress on making it mandatory for IT firms to follow labour laws

ITEC representatives to meet Chief Minister to discuss issue

The information technology workers’ support and welfare group ‘ITEC’ (IT and ITeS Employees Centre) has underlined the need for making it mandatory for IT companies to follow labour laws.

The ITEC organised a meeting here on Saturday to discuss the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, a key labour legislation which the government proposes to exempt the IT industry from. Seasoned trade unionists and employees from both technology and IT services/BPOs participated in the meeting.

Some participants shared their experiences in the IT sector where hire-and-fire policy and arbitrary HR practices are adopted.

Savitha (name changed) narrated how she was forced to resign from an MNC soon after she opposed the fact that an event in her company was given the name of a particular caste. According to her, she registered her protest with the HR Department but to no avail. A little later, she casually sent a mail to her colleagues on a group ID expressing her views on the issue. “When I brought this up with HR, I got no response. Later, when I wrote casually to my colleagues on a group ID, I was pulled up. Subsequently I was moved out of the project, only to be later told I was unproductive,” she said. She was forced to resign, she claimed only for opposing the title given to an event.

It is these random hire-and-fire policies, rampant in the absence of a legislative labour framework, that information technology workers support and welfare group ITEC (IT and ITeS Employees Centre) attempted to address in the meeting.

Shankar, vice-president of the All-India Central Council of Trade Unions, pointed out that the reluctance of IT firms to comply with the Industrial Employments (Standing Orders) Act shows that they fear a situation where their employees will form a union. “But this fear is unfounded. The Act, if implemented, will empower employees with information on their terms of work, and it may have references to representation from employees, but it is a myth that it confers employees the right to form unions,” he said.

Mr. Shankar added that the Karnataka government’s decision to declare IT and ITeS as an essential service was an “unnecessary move”.

‘Industries fear trade unions’

K.N. Suryanarayana Rao of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh said that industries fear trade unions. “Whatever companies feel they (workers in the sector) are very indifferent to issues within the sector, and there is a need to come together.” Contradicting Mr. Rao’s opinion that IT workers were largely privileged and were among the few sections of society to get living wages, IT professionals in the audience said that while this may be the case, it is also true that companies earn profits because of their hard labour and exploitation is rampant in the IT sector. Vikram from the All-India IT Employees’ Association said that the IT industry tries to emulate the U.S. and European work culture but are not ready to follow the labour laws and practices that are followed there. “Rights of employees in the same organisations abroad are protected while the companies’ subsidiaries in India flout every rule.”

The ITEC decided at the meeting that they would meet the Labour Minister and the Chief Minister and urge them not to exempt the IT sector from following labour laws.


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