Techies form union for fair work environment

The contours of the technology hub’s first trade union were decided at a meeting in Koramangala on August 20

August 22, 2017 01:09 am | Updated 01:09 am IST -

 Karnataka : Bengaluru : 21/08/2017   To go with Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees trade union story

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 21/08/2017 To go with Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees trade union story

On a rainy, lazy Sunday afternoon, 200 software professionals crammed into a small hall inside the city’s Young Women’s Christian Association in Koramangala to decide on the contours of technology hub’s first trade union.

After debating for more than two hours, the employees, who still fear a backlash from big corporations, chose representatives and named the body Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees Union (KITU). They endorsed 22 resolutions, including choosing a president and to “strive to secure fair and just and reasonable conditions of work environment.”

“Revolutionary greetings to you,” said Amanullah Khan, the newly-elected president of the KITU, which has Left leanings. “A trade union in the IT sector is taking birth after a prolonged period. The industry and the government prevented us from trying to form a union for reasons well-known.”

‘Poetry and prose’

“Comrades, I will compare the initial stages of the movement to poetry and the future to prose. The poetry has ended and prose has begun. The latter is most challenging. Many think the trade union movement is anti-social, anti-national, and a retrograde movement. All we are trying to do is to create a society which is just, fair and equal.”

Employees from corporations such as the IBM, Wipro, and Mindtree registered with the KITU on August 20.

Within 15 days, the KITU, with it 21-member executive committee, will submit an application with the registrar to incorporate the body.

“Nasscom will not be happy. There will be attacks. We will have to stand united to overcome the obstacles,” Mr. Khan, who has more than two decades of trade union experience, told the employees after being elected.

Challenging policies

Employees of information technology companies are both “high-profile” and “highly insecure,” especially after the arrival of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, Mr. Khan said in an interview.

“Directly challenging the government policies is not going to be easy. Job security now is of utmost concern. In the developed world, human resource is a problem. Not in India,” he said.

The government quoting data from the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) stated in May that the industry continued to be a net hirer and between 2.5 million and 3 million new jobs will be created by 2025. In the fiscal year 2017, the industry added 1,70,000 new jobs.

Nasscom has already publicly contradicted reports of large-scale layoff, according to a government statement. “The IT industry added 6,00,000 jobs in last three years and today, boasts of a total employee base of 3.9 million,” according to the statement. In June, Nasscom forecast the IT sector’s export revenues to grow at 7-8% in 2017-18, about the same as last year. The $150 billion industry saw exports rising 7.6% last year.

Opposing view

“This union is not going to work,” Mohandas Pai, former Infosys CFO and a board member, said in a telephone interview. “Even if we keep an average attrition rate of 16%, most of the people quitting a company get a job within 90 days.

“Joining the union is a stupid idea,” he added. “If one does not join, they have better options. Just 200 members or so is too small. They are creating a hue and cry about nothing.”

V.J.K. Nair, a Communist ideologue belonging to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, who addressed the employees urged the KITU members to “stand firm even at the threat of dismissals.” “You should stand up for your own community,” he said, and added that the KITU was backed by the CITU.

The union plans to expand its membership to other cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad, and Mumbai within the next four months.

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