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Strike-free IT in Buddha’s reach
Basu: Voice for Bhattacharjee

Calcutta, Oct. 23: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has all but sealed victory in his battle with the CPM’s labour arm, Citu, over making information technology free from strikes.

Two senior leaders ' Jyoti Basu and Anil Biswas ' appeared to support Bhattacharjee’s stand that since infotech is a 24x7 industry, it could not afford strike-induced shutdowns, which happened on September 29 during the nationwide bandh called by Citu.

“Information technology is a relatively new entity which works in a different manner, we will have to discuss if employees could resort to strikes in the IT sector,” said former chief minister and politburo member Basu.

On October 25, when the CPM politburo meets, the question will be on the agenda. Bhattacharjee had said after the disruption caused by last month’s strike ' when Citu seemed to have deliberately targeted the IT sector ' that he would himself raise the issue of insulating the service industry against such labour action.

Citu leaders have asked why IT needs such protection and have been running a parallel campaign to form unions in the industry.

“Our politburo will discuss at length whether employees could go on strike in a continuous process industry like IT. The review is also important in the context of the felt need of our government,” Basu said. It had been discussed once before, “but this time we will have to adopt a substantial position on the matter”, he added.

Yesterday, party boss Prakash Karat had also said the politburo had decided to confront the controversy. He supported Citu’s call to form unions in the IT industry, but reminded it that this had to happen from within and could not be imposed from outside.

Karat was noncommittal on whether or not strikes ought to be banned in IT, but was vocal in support of Bhattacharjee’s initiatives to draw investments to Bengal. IT is a key element of Bhattacharjee’s plan and he fears strikes will scare away potential investors.

Citu general secretary Chittabrata Majumdar, also a politburo member, and state secretary Kali Ghosh separately said: “We have placed our views (on forming unions) before the politburo and are going to do it once again next week. Let them give us a direction.”

It could well be that the politburo, while recognising the right to form unions, will tell them to keep IT out of reach of strikes.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas echoed Basu, indicating the Bengal party was fully behind Bhattacharjee. “The industry needs protection.

“IT services can be likened to those offered by an airline. However, the industry must also ensure that all employees/workers engaged by the companies are compensated well for their labour.”

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