The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hello strike, bye-bye Saturday

Calcutta, Dec. 15: From information technology to manufacturing to schools — Saturday will be a working day because of yesterday’s Citu strike.

Sayan Sarkar will miss his guitar class tomorrow, his scheduled day off, as he will have to log in for work at a multinational technology company to make up for the loss caused by the strike.

“This is a standard rule in Sector V (in Salt Lake, the IT hub)… Here, we work on off-days to make up for the loss in a bandh,” said Sayan.

Banish the thought that such things are happening in Bengal only in the new economy. Infamous for its “poor work culture”, the state is now seeing a trend of making up for lost time in disruptions by willing employees even in the manufacturing industry.

“People do want to work and make up for lost time. So, working on Saturdays and Sundays has almost become a trend,” said Aloke Mookherjea, president of Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, attributing its origin to the IT industry.

So much so that to Sayan, who grew up in the heyday of the disruptive politics of the eighties and cricket on deserted streets, Saturday at work is “no big deal”.

Bengal Citu president Shyamal Chakraborty, however, said: “I am not aware of any such new trend.”

Observers wondered if Citu is losing touch with work place reality, though it has shown great enthusiasm and fight to form unions in IT in the face of disapproval from not only chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee but also the CPM’s central leadership.

Mookherjea said the nature of work determines the decision whether or not to operate on an alternative day. That means a manufacturing unit with a daily production quota to meet or a code-writer in a software company can work on a Saturday to compensate for the loss suffered on a Thursday.

“Since we are in the manufacturing business, disruptions of any kind to the normal work day lead to a loss. We will work on Sunday to make up for the loss,” said S.B. Ganguly, who heads Exide Industries.

Many more are doing so. ABB, Frost and Sullivan and Tata Interactive Systems are working on Saturday. Even smaller manufacturing units will remain open.

“We have decided to work on Saturday and our employees have accepted it without a grumble,” said the owner of a plastic machinery manufacturing unit.

The chief minister maintained his normal schedule in a deserted Writers’ Buildings yesterday. In Sector V, attendance in BPOs, the government claimed, was around 90 per cent. But in software companies it was much less.

A sizeable number who failed to make it to office logged in from home. “I have a laptop. So, I worked from home,” said Samrat Bhattacharya, who is with a leading IT company.

Many, however, did not have that luxury for stringent work-related security considerations. They will be found at their workstations tomorrow.

If they are rewriting Bengal’s work culture, Meghna Sengupta, a Class VII student of Modern High School, is growing up in this atmosphere and not complaining about going to school tomorrow.

“Every board has its quota of working hours to be fulfilled and we also feel that we should make up for a lost day. So we are open on Saturday,” said Debi Kar, principal, Modern High School.

Yesterday’s strike meant a setback for the chief minister in his effort to change Bengal’s image. But he can cite these examples to show every bandh has a brighter side.

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