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Desi techies form unions to save jobs

Stunned by the recent lay-offs in the sector, Union for Information and Technology-enabled Services has enlisted the help of the mighty Switzerland-based Global Union Federation and Union Network International, reports Aditya Ghosh.

business Updated: Nov 12, 2008 01:10 IST
Aditya Ghosh

Das Kapital would probably not be on their reading lists, yet in their hour of crisis, India's information technology professionals have turned to collective bargaining techniques that Marx would laud.

Stunned by the recent wave of lay-offs in the sector as a result of the global financial crisis, the country's hitherto dormant Union for Information and Technology-enabled Services has enlisted the help of the mighty Switzerland-based Global Union Federation and Union Network International, which has 15 million members belonging to 900 unions from all over the world. The Indian union is now a chapter of the global union.

A group of top officials from the global union is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on December 5 to meet Nasscom officials and Indian ministers to talk about how best the sector can safeguard employee's interests. After these discussions, office bearers of the Indian union will tour the country, talking to company managements about alternatives to firing employees.

"We tell them how to use the same skill sets of people in other sectors which are booming, like biotechnology and pharmaceutical research," said Karthik Shekhar, a former employee of IBM who is now the full-time general secretary of the Indian chapter of the global union.

The Indian union, which has about 15,000 members from top firms such as IBM and Infosys, estimates that firms in the sector have axed 10,000 jobs in the past three months. The Indian union may, however, be defying a long-standing diktat by the industry's umbrella body, the National Association of Software and Service Companies, or Nasscom, that IT professionals must not get involved in trade unionism.

“We don’t need intermediaries,” Ganesh Natarajan told HT. “The industry is very transparent.” The global union does not agree.

“Nasscom have got it all wrong,” Philip Jennings, the general secretary of the global union, told HT from Nyon in Switzerland. “They need unions as much as the staff do — if they are to get effective feedback and tackle common issues like high turnover and training deficits. Global cooperation between unions is also necessary to ensure that the increasing number of foreign multinationals arriving in India.”