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IT employees form unions in Tamil Nadu to collectively battle job cut woes

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-05-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: Two unions in Tamil Nadu, the only state where labour groups have been actively supporting information technology (IT) employees, have become their voice in the fight against layoffs in the industry.

The IT employees’ wing of the New Democratic Labour Front (NDLF) on Tuesday sought the state government’s intervention on job cuts in the IT industry.

The NDLF IT employees’ wing is planning to hold a demonstration in Chennai against the alleged job cuts in these firms on Thursday.

S. Karpaga Vinayagam, organizer of the wing, requested the labour commissioner to arrange a tripartite meeting between the management, government officials and IT employees union to settle the termination disputes

Information technology (IT) companies in India are in the midst of the industry’s largest retrenchment drive, with seven of the biggest IT firms planning to ask at least 56,000 engineers to leave this year, Mint reported on 12 May.

The seven companies—Infosys Ltd, Wipro Ltd, Tech Mahindra Ltd, HCL Technologies Ltd, US-based Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and DXC Technology Co., and France-based Cap Gemini SA—and which together employ 1.24 million people, plan to let go of 4.5% of their workforce in 2017, the report, based on interviews with 22 current and former employees across these seven companies, said.

The Forum for IT Employees (FITE) from Chennai, which also has members in other cities, filed a petition to the Telangana government, alleging that Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. was illegally terminating thousands of employees. Cognizant had sought two weeks’ time from the Telangana labour department to come up with a reply.

Also Read: Cognizant seeks 2 weeks from Telangana over employees’ ‘resignations’

“Cognizant has not conducted any layoffs. Each year, as is the best practice across our industry, we conduct performance review to ensure we have the right employee skill sets necessary to meet client needs and achieve our business goals,” a Cognizant spokesperson said. “This process results in changes, including some employees transitioning out of the company. Any actions as the result of this process are performance-based and generally consistent with those we’ve made in previous years.”

The spokesperson added: “We continue to hire and invest in critical skills to support our evolving digital capabilities. In the March 2017 quarter, we hired thousands of professionals ─ from campuses as well as from the lateral market. We re-trained and re-skilled tens of thousands of employees in 2016, and we expect to have about 100,000 employees re-trained by the end of this year in the most specialized areas of digital.”

S. Madeshwaran, who was asked to exit Cognizant last month and has now sought FITE’s help, wasn’t aware of these unions. “Else I wouldn’t have quit,” he said.

“I worked for the company for more than seven years and they gave me an hour’s time to leave,” he added.

Since then, Madeshwaran is making a living as a driver. “I need to meet my monthly expenses until I find another job. I’ll have to admit my daughter in the school this year. So I’ll have to take care of all those commitments.”

Also Read: Cognizant layoffs: FITE to approach Bengaluru labour commission

Union activity in IT companies is very rare.

“We are still in the process of creating awareness on the unionization of IT employees. It isn’t easy as IT employees are hesitant to speak up and consider themselves as white collar professionals. But the trend is changing,” said S. Kumar, a member of the NDLF- IT employees’ wing.

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