The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Karat balm on BPO

New Delhi, Nov. 4: CPM leader Prakash Karat today made it clear that BPO employees would not be forced to join either unions or strikes.

“It is fine if they (the employees) do not want to form unions,” the CPM general secretary told PTI.

Karat vigorously defended employees’ right to form unions in the infotech sector but added that probably there need not be a forcible closure of the sector during strikes.

The comments came in the run-up to the formal launch of the first-ever union for employees in the information technology services industry by Citu on November 14 in Calcutta.

Exactly a month later — on December 14 — the Left parties have called a national general strike. The Citu has so far refused to spell out without ambiguity whether the infotech sector would be exempt from the strike.

But Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has put his reputation on the line by indicating famously —“one government, one rule” — that the IT sector would operate as it did during a Trinamul Congress strike last month.

Karat’s comments seem to suggest that the central leadership is with the chief minister on the issue.

Citu Bengal unit president Shyamal Chakraborty iterated that the union would make up its mind on which sectors to exempt from the general strike only “48 hours before”.

Citu national secretary Chittabrata Mazumdar had earlier said the CPM politburo cannot decide on behalf of the labour wing.

Sources said a realisation that not many BPO employees have so far shown interest in unionising might also have prompted the central leadership to adopt a flexible stand.

“Employees in any BPO unit can form unions. Our trade unions will encourage them to form unions. That is the best way to protect their interest and rights,” Karat said.

He stressed that forming a union is legal — on which there is little debate. “If the employees of any enterprise want to form a union, the laws allow them. What is so sacrosanct about the BPO sector'” Karat asked. “We are getting complaints from all over the country that BPO workers do 12 hours of continuous work but do not get elementary facilities.”

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