Indian technology industry workers get organised

A short article from business magazine, Forbes, about the recent unionisation drive within the Indian technology industry.

Submitted by Ed on November 21, 2006

India’s technology industry, which has been merrily soaking up jobs from higher-cost countries, got a little shock last week when it had its first brush with organized labor.

The Center for Indian Trade Unions, a Communist group that represents several million employees across India, launched the West Bengal Information Technology Services Association in Kolkota. Since it’s not as much a union as an employee rights group, membership is voluntary.

Trade union leaders have accused technology-services firms of abuses ranging from firing employees without notice to not providing transport for workers leaving late-night jobs.

For now, however, there probably won’t union halls full of job-hungry computer geeks looking for new gigs. The technology services sector is expected to generate 1.4 million jobs by 2010, as well as face a shortage of 500,000 professionals.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya of West Bengal a reformist who has worked to attract millions of dollars worth of private-sector investment to his state in the last few years, has not openly lent support to the group. He previously faced opposition from within his Communist Party when he classified technology as an essential service to encourage companies to set up shop in West Bengal. Since it’s so essential, it is difficult for employees to strike, companies can stay open 24 hours a day and weekend breaks needn’t be fixed.

Predictably, the industry isn’t happy with the idea. Reports said executives from more than 100 companies, including such biggies as Tata Consultancy, Wipro and Cognizant, met to plan counter strategies.

One of the biggest fears, especially in West Bengal, is that of employees going on strike, which could tarnish the relatively good image that outsourcing enjoys among corporations in other countries. The tech labor group was created a month ahead of a one-day nationwide strike by the Center for Indian Trade Unions, on Dec. 14. But the parent union has indicated workers in technology services won’t go on strike.

Taken from