Bengal IT, ITeS Employees submit application to form trade union

According to FITE, West Bengal has 150,000-200,000 employees in the IT and ITeS sector
Employees from the IT and ITeS sector have approached the West Bengal government to form a non-partisan trade union in the state. If allowed, it will be the first such instance in the country after similar moves in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

“We have collected signatures of 150 employees from the state’s IT and ITeS companies and have submitted our application to form a registered trade union,” Rajarshi Dawn, general secretary of the Kolkata Chapter of Forum of IT Employees (FITE), said.

While the application has been submitted on June 19, the hearing is scheduled on August 5. If the application is approved, the trade union will be registered by late September.

According to Dawn, the union will primarily deal with the issue of retrenchment, appraisals, and policy-making, where workers will have a say. It will also provide legal remedy on work-related issues like overtime, and sexual harassment, among others. 

It is estimated by FITE that West Bengal has 150,000-200,000 employees in the IT and ITeS sector.

“Employees in these sectors are forcefully made to resign and retrenchment has become prevalent. We will take up cases on behalf of our members and fight legally,” Dawn said.

He said that IT, BPO, and KPO sectors, considered to provide employment at a massive scale, hire when the situation arises and fire staff or force them to resign later. “We have seen massive retrenchments on trivial grounds during 2008, 2014, and it has become routine. We need to stand united,” he said.

FITE said that, despite the country’s labour laws prescribing payment of overtime, the rule is seldom upheld by the firms. Payment of overtime is going to be another issue the trade union will take up.

The trade union will also take up salary parity issues. Dawn said while in the BPO sector, on an average, an employee earns Rs 8,000-10,000, and works more than eight hours a day, employees from IT companies draw monthly salary in six digits. Wages within IT companies also varies. The union may also call for collective bargaining during appraisal time to revise wages.

In Maharashtra, a state-level tripartite committee, comprising of the labour minister, labour commissioner of Mumbai and Pune, FITE representatives and HR and senior managements from various IT companies including Infosys, Wipro, Tech Mahindra, Capgemini, Cognizant, IBM, Persistent, Accenture and others, have been formed to discuss various issues including overtime, bonus, work-related issues and others which are sorted out by collective bargaining.

The first attempt to set up an IT trade union in West Bengal was made during the Left Front regime as early as 2007-08. Talks had progressed but lost momentum. Thereafter, it was in 2014, when the movement revived after TCS announced layoff of 25,000 employees and gained steam in March 2017 during another crisis in the sector. Since 2014, the proposed trade union has been existing as the Kolkata chapter of FITE. 

FITE has other such chapters in Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar and Kochi, which are currently unregistered.