K. Santhosh

A section is worried about the move

Thrissur: Close on the heels of the announcement of the formation of a trade union in the Information Technology sector by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-backed Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) in Kolkata, efforts are being made to bring IT employees in Kerala too under the umbrella of labour unions.

A State-level organisation, Association of IT Employees, which claims to enjoy the support of major trade unions, is being launched in Thrissur on November 19. It seeks to bring together employees in IT and ITES (IT-enabled services) /BPO domain and countless professionals in the unorganised sector.

Working conditions

``With outsourcing being the primary growth engine, the sector has long and odd working hours that suit the schedules of customers abroad. The outcome: employees suffer from stress and work-related ailments,'' said CITU State committee member K.V. Davies.

To combat this problem, the Union Health and IT Ministries are contemplating a health policy for IT employees. ``It is terrible to see 20-year olds fall to death at work. Without being alarmist, we have to address the issue,'' Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss was quoted as saying recently.

``Disparity in wages is gaping. Some get jaw-dropping salaries, others abysmally low amounts. The norm is: perform or perish. To tackle these issues, the INTUC [Indian National Trade Union Congress] is planning to enter the State's IT sector in a major way,'' said Suresh Babu, INTUC State president.

Trade unions alleged that registers were not properly maintained in many IT companies.

``There is blatant violation of labour laws. We are against the powers of the Labour Commissioner being delegated to the Development Commissioner of Special Economic Zone. In Kerala, the Left is caught in a dilemma: being in power, it needs to project a pro-development image and woo investors even as it is under pressure to honour its trade union commitments,'' said Saji Narayanan, vice-president, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.

Unionism unwelcome

A large section of the IT sector is worried about having labour unions. ``Trade unionism will destroy the sector, especially at a time when Kerala is finding a toehold in the global IT order. Kerala accounts for IT export revenues of Rs.500 crore. Compare this with the achievements of Karnataka, which accounts for one-third of the country's IT exports. In the current fiscal, Karnataka is expected to take in 37 per cent of all IT revenues amounting to Rs.37,000 crore ($ 8.2 billion),'' said V. K. Mathews, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, IBS Group of Companies, Technopark.He countered the allegation that many IT companies in the Technopark violated labour laws.