The Indian IT industry alone employs more than 45 lakh people. Despite packages that may seem attractive, the working conditions of these professionals are very damaging to their physical, mental and social well-being.
Nowadays the profits of these companies are under pressure due to automation, Artificial Intelligence, protective policies by the governments of USA, Australia, etc. Whenever capitalists see a threat to their profits they always first attack the employees by taking away their facilities, by freezing their pay, by making them work for longer hours, by replacing higher salaried older employees by much lower salaried younger employees, and even downsizing by way of forced resignations or even termination. These employees are working in cutting edge technology sectors and have tremendous potential to foil such plans if they realize their strength and start organizing themselves in Unions. Already IT-ITES employees have started to fight back in Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore, etc. As more and more people from other centers where IT-ITES companies are concentrated like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, NOIDA, Lucknow, start joining this struggle and start organizing their unions , they can surely become a mighty force.
Mazdoor Ekta Lahar fully supports the struggle of IT-ITES employees and is happy to bring you a report of the first meeting of its kind held in Pune, one of the important IT hubs in India.
“Know Your Rights!” This was the clarion call given by the Forum of IT Employees (FITE) and Lok Raj Sangathan in a meeting held in Pune on 8th July’17. There was a buzz in the air when the activists went around distributing leaflets inviting these professionals to attend this important meeting. Most of these young workers were totally unaware of their rights, and many of them expressed their gratitude to the organizers. Social media was also extensively used to mobilize for the meeting.
More than a hundred IT and ITES workers from Pune as well as Mumbai participated in this meeting. Apart from the leaders of FITE and Lok Raj Sangathan, Retired Justice B.G. Kolse Patil, Dilip Pawar, President of Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sangathan (the Union of Bajaj Auto employees), Santosh Kanse, President of Sandvik India Union and of Shramik Ekta Mahasangh (a confederation of 130 Unions of Pimpri-Chinchwad industrial belt) and several other Law experts addressed the meeting.
Speaker after speaker explained that companies try to fool these young professionals by calling them “managers”, “executives”, etc. and denying that they are workers. These professionals earn their salaries, and have every right as Indian citizens to form a union. That is the first step they need to take to fight for and assert their rights. Do not highly educated professionals like aircraft engineers, pilots, engine drivers, bank officers and employees, doctors, teachers, etc. form unions and associations? How else do they fight for and defend their rights? No worker, of any description has ever been handed his or her rights on a platter. Each right – limit on the working day, revision of wages, etc. has had to be fought for unitedly. Every speaker had decades of experience in fighting for the rights of toilers and expressed his willingness to give the techies full support and guidance.
Tech professionals must never forget their own strength. For instance, by a united action they can bring the entire financial markets of the world to a standstill in a day!
The following important points got clarified in the course of the meeting:
- When owners have their associations and unions there is no question of employees not having such a right.
- Almost all the laws are applicable even to companies located in SEZ.
- No company, even if it has gone bankrupt can just throw out any employee.
- Irrespective of whatever is written in the appointment letter as regards notice period, etc. no company can dismiss any employee without following the proper procedure.
- Any company having more than 100 employees has to take formal permission from the Government to retrench any employee.
- The maximum number of hours an employee can be asked to work on overtime is also limited by law.
Every speaker stressed that there are enough laws to protect the IT-ITES employees, but none of them will be applicable in practice unless they organize themselves into a union. Companies know these facts very well and hence they try to make the employees “resign” on their own. However if employees refuse to succumb to the pressure and ask the companies to terminate them instead, companies would back down.
All those who attended the meeting participated enthusiastically, asking for clarifications and sharing experiences. Some even narrated how they refused to “resign” on their own as a result of which the company had to step back.
One HR employee said that after having to do the dirty work of forcing techies to “resign”, the day came when the axe fell on him. The panel asserted that even HR personnel should be a part of the same union and that getting organised was the only protection they had.
More than 50 of the participants volunteered to work for the formation of a union! Many also volunteered to organize similar meetings elsewhere in Pune and also in Mumbai.
Mazdoor Ekta Lahar compliments the FITE and the Lok Raj Sangathan for this initiative. It also compliments the participants who refused to be cowed down by the managements and showed the resolve to unite and fight against injustice and for better working conditions.