India

Leading IT firms decline to confirm labour unions

12 Jun 2016 | By Ramya

Leading IT firms have declined to acknowledge the employees' right to form a labour union to redress grievances invoking provisions of Industrial Disputes Act 1947.

The list of such companies includes Wipro, Infosys, Microsoft, TCS, Mphasis, Juniper, Flipkart and Amazon India.

Kumar Jayant, Principal Secretary–Tamil Nadu Labour & Employment Department, clarified New Democratic Labour Front (IT Wing) that employees are free to form unions.

In context: IT firms and labour laws

Industrial ActThe Industrial Disputes Act of 1947

The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 regulates the Indian labour law to an extent that concerns trade unions.

It was enacted on 11 March 1947 and enforced on 1 April 1947.

It aims to secure peace and harmony in industries and settlement of disputes.

It applies to the organized sector; Provisions of the Act–compensation to employees, permissions for layoffs/retrenching/closing down establishments, and unfair labour practices.

12 Jun 2016Leading IT firms decline to confirm labour unions

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No company can be exempted

Kumar Jayant stated that no company can be exempted from the Industrial Disputes Act 1947; he said that IT firms are also governed by the same provisions of the Act as others.

Firms' SilenceSpeculations, suspicions arise as firms keep mum

IT companies, which hire thousands of people across India and the world, didn't reveal whether a union created by their employees exists or not.

The firms declined to comment on if they welcome the idea of employees wanting to form unions to fight and protect their rights according to the Act.

Suspicions and speculations arose if such union ever existed because of their silence.

An IT employee's statement

"It’s not like government employee unions. IT companies are pure profit-oriented businesses, despite earning substantially on each employee every year and gaining the capability to take care of the employee for the next three to five years, companies just don’t do that."

Absence Employees want unions, don’t take the lead

In Jan'15, a Chennai TCS employee had to approach Madras HC to put her termination on stay due to the absence of an employee union.

According to a Hyderabad-based IT engineer, 60-80% employees are willing to join unions but, don't take the lead.

He added that employees are afraid of being blacklisted for life across the industry, and hence there are no IT unions.

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AIBEA, a strong union for bank employees

Unlike IT industry, banking sector has an active union that advocates employee rights. All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), a well-known employee union, works for the welfare and rights of its hundreds of thousands of members who belong to public sector banking.

Criticism Companies face sharp criticism

Reportedly, several IT companies take a written undertaking from their employees to not form trade unions; the companies have not even confirmed the same.

Of late, many IT and e-commerce firms faced sharp criticism for backtracking and deferring job offers to hundreds of pass outs from reputed Indian colleges; Flipkart is one such company.

Other Indian industries have active unions that ensure employee welfare.