While the state labour department recognised a workers’ union for IT workers to represent employees who lost jobs during the past year, Karnataka IT Minister Priyank Kharge says the software industry has been cushioned against the union, formed under the IT Act.
“The government is the custodian of the welfare of the people. IT and ITeS employees had concerns over retrenchments and layoffs. However, newer opportunities and avenues have opened up for people who have been able to reskill themselves and adapt to new requirements,” said Kharge.
"Whenever IT employees have come forward, we have done our best to find a solution. Having said that that our mandate is to generate employment. We can't have regressive policies which will hurt creating more jobs," said Kharge. "There is a thin line the government has to balance."
For over a decade, there have been attempts to mobilise workers in technology companies whenever there has been workforce rationalisation. However, the efforts have fizzled out as companies have added software workers to deliver projects and engage with employees to retain them.
Last month the Karnataka labour department recognised the Karnataka State IT/ITeS Employees Union (KITU) as a workers’ body to protect their interests. Indian IT firms are embracing automation, reducing hiring, and shedding jobs as they focus on productivity, with clients shifting their budgets from traditional services to newer areas such as digital and cloud. Works such software maintenance and testing are largely automated across companies such as Infosys and Wipro, and employees have been redeployed in more innovative work, wherever possible.
Yet, this comes at a time when the industry is facing its worst period in a decade. In the first half of this year, net hiring by IT firms has remained flat or marginally dropped in the top six companies. Industry body Nasscom said its target of generating 130,000-150,000 jobs would be tough to meet this year.