Cognizant's Chennai techies seek legal shield ahead of mass layoffs: Report

Indian techies and information technology (IT) workers have been feeling the squeeze for some time now with disruption in the sector, global headwinds and tightening visa norms forcing IT majors, domestic and international, to prune their workforces. 

However, a group of IT professionals from Chennai has decided to fight back. They are seeking legal options and preparing for conciliation proceedings with the state labour department in response to IT major Cognizant Technology Solutions's reported plans to layoff 6,000 of its Indian employees in the current appraisal cycle, according to an Economic Times report. 

The professionals concerned have argued that they are fighting against retrenchment. However, according to the financial daily, Cognizant president Rajeev Mehta has categorically said that there is no retrenchment.

As reported in early-April, the annual appraisal at Cognizant came as a surprise to many. Not only was their performance under greater scrutiny, but at the end of the review process, some were left unsure of their future. As many as 10,000 employees of the company are expected to be laid off. Many will lose their job to automation. Also, as reported last week, the Nasdaq-listed solutions provider has floated a voluntary separation option for its employees at the senior management level. 

The beleaguered techies, according to the ET report, have rallied behind the Forum for IT Employees (FITE), which has sent its representations to assistant labour commissioners in certain districts and the state labour commissioner over the matter. The forum has urged the Tamil Nadu government to intervene on behalf of the techies and against what it has termed as “illegal termination”. 

The report added that in the past, FITE had helped a Tata Consultancy Services employee win a stay on his firing. The case in the Madras High Court also saw the presiding judge asking the state to look into whether IT professionals could be viewed as "workmen" under the Industrial Disputes (ID) Act. Subsequently, the state's labour secretary had notified via a letter that no IT company was exempt of the ID Act and that IT professionals could form unions.

Mehta denies talk of retrenchment

Speaking to the financial daily, Mehta said that there were "no retrenchments". He claimed that this was part of Cognizant's annual appraisal cycle, adding that the the voluntary separation programme was meant to ensure that the IT major would have the "right teams and the right skills in areas like digital". he refused to comment on any talks of unionisation, terming it "speculative".

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