The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tech town bid to beat unions
- Bosses counselling, interacting with workforce

The three-day-old West Bengal IT Services Association has sent tremors across tech town, with employers trying to find ways to prevent unionisation of the workforce.

From structured counselling sessions to informal interactions, HR heads are exploring various tools to keep unions at bay.

“Team leaders are conducting sessions where they tell us that we should be concerned with our work and not get into unions. We have been told that political parties have their own agenda,” said a Wipro employee, part of the Dell team.

On this count, Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry is planning to call the CEOs of all IT companies in the city to discuss the proposed union and its impact.

Citu, CPM’s labour wing, has formed West Bengal IT Services Association, the first such body for the employees of the IT and ITES industry. The association will be unveiled in Sector V on November 17.

“The workforce in BPOs and call centres is young, but the boys and girls are educated. We hope they will not fall prey to people who propagate unions,” said Brigadier Suresh Menon, CEO, BNKe Solutions.

In some companies, seniors are informally briefing employees about the pitfalls of unionism in the workplace and citing the industrial decline in Bengal since the 1970s as an example. “We already have so many problems, like attrition and lack of quality talent. Now, the threat of unions… Running a business will become difficult,” feared a senior official of a BPO outfit.

But a section of employees in the BPO industry has welcomed the move. “Every worker in the industry is suffering, but no one complains for the fear of job loss. An association will help us,” said an employee of a prominent call centre.

The fledgling body is banking on such sentiments and expecting a turnout of “2,000 to 3,000 people” at its flag-off on November 17, besides affiliation of at least six units from IT and ITES companies.

“Webel, WTL and some employees from companies like IBM, CTS and Globsyn will join us. We are trying to rope in employees from Wipro, PricewaterhouseCoopers and other companies in Sector V and Rajarhat,” said Somnath Bhattacharya, Citu leader and secretary of the body.

“If the IT companies treat their employees properly, then why are they apprehensive'” observed Citu state president Shyamal Chakraborty.

Most companies are in wait-and-watch mode while trying to refine communication channels with employees to address the unionisation issue. “It is best to see how things shape up... But we always harp on the 24x7 culture of the IT industry,” said Ajoyendra Mukherjee, vice-president, TCS.

The association has drawn up plans for the next three months, from opening an office in tech town to seeking support of the techies for the December 14 general strike. “We want them to decide by themselves. We will not do anything irresponsible,” promised Bhattacharya.

December 14 will not only be a test of his pledge, but also a referendum on the need of unions in the IT industry.

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