It is a historic judgement from Madras Labour Court to uphold the statutory rights of lakhs of employees in Information Technology Industry in India. Like any Industry, IT Industry also booms because of the labour of lakhs of workers. This Judgement is not a blow to IT Industry. Instead it will ensure the job security and social security for many. Employees with secured and satisfied employment will be more productive to Industry. The Labour Court ordered HCL Technologies Limited to reinstate its employee Mr.Ramesha with full salary, back wages and seniority on the ground that “software engineers are workmen enjoying statutory protections as per Industrial Dispute Act”.
Mr. Ramesha who was a permanent employee, Senior Service Programmer with HCL was terminated on January 22, 2013. The reason cited was that his performance was not satisfactory and that he did not improve even after counselling. It appears that no enquiry was conducted before termination. Further, when he questioned the company’s arbitrary decision, the company gave no explanation. Mr. Ramesha then challenged his illegal termination in the Madras Labour Court.
HCL claimed that software engineers are exempted from the definition of “workman” in Industrial Disputes Act and hence labour court had no jurisdiction to entertain the application at all. The Labour Court asserted that job of an engineer in a Software Company involves skills and technical knowledge. Therefore, the job of a software engineer can be termed as skilled or technical one. To be noted here that skilled or technical are of the terms accepted under workman definition in Industrial Dispute Act.
The Labour Court further said “In Clause 6 of appointment order, it is stated that service of the employee can be terminated by giving 30 day notice period or by one month salary in lieu of notice without assigning any reason. But the appointment order of the company does not contain any provision to show that failure to improve the performance would result in dismissal of the employee. Nor is there any provision to show that failure to improve the performance is tantamount to misconduct. Even assuming that it is an act of misconduct a punishment of dismissal is too harsh to sustain”
We welcome this path breaking judgement. The judgement has come at an appropriate time when thousands of employees are put on bench and forcefully asked to resign from the company in the name of “low performance”. We know that the appraisal system which is used to rate the employees is very much biased, but helpless to question. Now we feel that we have got a weapon to strengthen our collective resistance to fight for exploitation free IT Industry. FITE notes with concern that it took three years for an IT employee to prove himself as a workman under the ID Act.
At this time when many of our IT employees waiting at the doors of Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai Labour Courts expecting remedy under Industrial Dispute Act, this judgment has come as ray of light thrown on darkness .
We wish more Rameshas to come out to fight against the exploitative working conditions in our Industry.
Let us raise our heads and say loudly that I am a Worker and I am protected.