Stop anti-labour reforms: FITE supports All-India strike on September 2

Stop anti-labour reforms: FITE supports All-India strike on September 2

Dear IT/ITES Employees,

The IT/ITES industry we work in, is playing a significant role in India’s economy. It contributes 8% in total GDP and 25% in total exports. Some of the IT companies we work, are among the top revenue producing companies in the world. The prime reason for all these is the hard work of the IT workforce (around 10 lakh women & 20 lakh men), including YOURSELF! In a way, our IT & ITES industry is an unorganized industry. It means there was no platform for us, through which we can protect our collective rights like unquestionable working hours, firing policy, biased appraisals & ratings etc. We claim ourselves as Professionals not Workers/Laborers. Because of this, whenever the terms like Trade Unions, Protests and Strikes are told, we don’t relate them to our Industry. Rather we confine those terms to Manufacturing and other sectors whose workers usually don’t get the opportunity to work in Air Conditioned Rooms. But! Aren’t we also ‘Workers’? A “Worker” is one who exchanges his/her labour power for money with the buyer (Employer) in the labour market. Worker does not own any means of production. We (IT/ITES Employees), also don’t have infrastructure, investment but only our skills. Which means, we exchange our skills/man power for a compensation of monthly salary.

Illegal Terminations/Layoffs/Closures:

In December 2014, TCS dared to Terminate (It was widely called as ‘Layoff’) 25,000 employees labeling them as “Under Performers” (Ever wondered how 25,000 under performers suddenly came in India’s No: 1 Software Company?!) What was the opposite reaction? Some of the politically conscious IT employees who were already creating awareness among IT employees on various social issues, floated a platform called “Forum for IT Employees – FITE”. Through which, legal cases at High Courts of various states were filed. Various forms of campaigns were unfolded and thus the layoffs were intervened. With dependent family members including kids & ailing parents and monthly loans, the mental trauma of our fellow employees (fired by TCS) faced during such time was enormous. This pathetic story does not end with TCS and not with Job Termination alone. It is now going on in different companies at different levels (CISCO, YAHOO, BALLY Technologies, ALTISOURSE, Helios and Matheson & C-Cubed). F.I.T.E. has been fighting against various corporate fraudulent activities such as sudden closure of companies, non-payment of salary & bonus, cheating the government without paying the PF, TDS, etc.

Whatever we are now enjoying in our jobs – Provident Fund, Maternity leave benefit, Leave Benefits, Working hours etc., they all have long history, especially a Trade Union history. Kindly take some time to google on this.  Most of the workers in this country are protected by an act called Industrial Dispute Act (IDA) and Labour Courts. But how to use them and how effectively and collectively protect our jobs and rights? Trade Union is a form for employees like us to come together and voice our problems. Trade Union is a form and fundamental right ensured by our Indian constitution for the workers. FITE request our fellow IT & ITES employees to see the trade unions in this context.

The Anti-Labour Reforms by Modi-led BJP Government!

After Mr.Narendra Modi elected as Prime Minister of this country, he is very keen on many reforms especially labour reforms. All Big Corporates are supporting Modi’s reforms, why? Is that for the development of the country? No, that is simply for increasing the profit of those big corporates. By diluting the existing laws, the current government is trying to remove the existing minimal legal protections for workers. Instead of creating labour friendly laws (similar to Western & European countries) the government is keen in reforming the laws to support the corporates who illegally terminate us and do layoffs to improve their quarterly and annual profit percentages.

The Proposed (Anti) Labour Reforms by current BJP Government:

Current Scenario Proposed Labour Reforms
Employees State Insurance Act,1948A government insurance scheme ensures social health scheme for workers in shops, hotels, cinema theaters, private medical and educational institutions, non-seasonal factories that employs more than 10 workers with wage limit Rs.15,000/m. ESI is optional and opens door to private insurance companies
In pure business motive at the cost of social security of low-paid working class of this country. Remind there 7.5 crore people who are currently benefited of this insurance scheme. Hope how serious repercussions this will have on poor lives.
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986:Prohibits employment of children up to 14 years Prohibits employment of children up to 14 years, but allows them in entertainment and sporting activities or home enterprises, but only in non-school hours and without a subordinate relationship of work and labour.
The Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act:
This law confers rights on contract. Companies employing 20 workers will be covered in this law.
The changes proposed by the Modi government will exempt companies employing less than 50 workers from the law.
The Industrial Disputes Act
This Act is deals with core labour issues such as industrial disputes, regulation of strikes, lock-outs, lay-offs, retrenchments and other related issues. Currently companies with <100 workers need not to get permission from government to fire.
In the proposed reform, the count is increased to 300. Which means, companies having <300 workers no need to seek government permission to hire/fire.
The Factories Act
This law is currently applicable to firms with >10 workers (and Power supply) & 20 workers (if power supply is not required)
Proposed change is to increase the count to >20 workers (and Power supply) & 40 workers (if power supply is not required)
In India, there is no fully functional system of labour inspection. The reforms propose a system of self-certification by factory owners.

Apart from the above list,

It is aimed to provide power to state governments to decide on Minimum Wage, to deny any piece of information from Income & Expenditure in Annual report If the company wish, to increase the spread over time of worker at factory premises to 12 hours (We already work 12 hours to 15 hours and nobody questions this; also no overtime payments!), to increase the Quarterly overtime hours to 100 hours, to exempt companies from all basic labour acts, where employee count is less than 40 (The fact is that around 70% of companies come under this category. Many IT startup companies will fall in this category and their jobs will be in permanent danger).

Is it aimed to the development of the country? Definitely not, in this competitive market scenario, the state which has more oppressive and more exploitative, corporate friendly and anti labour laws will attract the investments. It will leave 90% of workers to live at the mercy of employers. Less than 10% of people work in the organized sector covered by labour laws. This means 10-12 million Indian youth are forced to join the informal sector every year, with no labour protection.

The Indian Economy went through a period of jobless growth when 50 lakhs jobs were lost between 2004-05 and 2009-10 while the economy was growing at an impressive rate” and “The number of  people seeking jobs grew annually at 2.23% between 2001-2011,but growth in actual employment during the same period was only 1.4%” Assocham says.  To cope with the ongoing crisis in this profit oriented capitalist system, these kind of labour reforms are proposed by corporates who are running these governments behind the screen.

In this situation, the Trade Unions which are representing the workers of the manufacturing and other sectors have come together to show their disagreement against these biased ‘Reforms’. An All India strike is called by various Trade Unions across the country on 2nd September. Their demands are listed below. F.I.T.E. feels that it is the duty of every IT/ITES employee to support these demands. Because, we, being an equal and integral part of the society, should collectively support our fellow employees in this time of struggle!

Demand Charter from various Trade Unions who have called for a country wide strike on 2nd September against the ‘Proposed Labour Reforms’:

  • Urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalization of public distribution system and banning speculative trade in commodity market
  • Containing unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation.
  • Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measure for violation for labour laws.
  • Universal social security cover for all workers
  • Minimum wages of not less than Rs. 15,000/- per month with provisions of indexation.
  • Assured enhanced pension not less than Rs. 3000/- P.M. for the entire working population.
  • Stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State PSUs.
  • Stoppage of contractorisation in permanent perennial work and payment of same wage and benefits for contract workers as regular workers for same and similar work.
  • Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, provident fund; increase the quantum of gratuity.
  • Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days from the date of submitting applications; and immediate ratification of ILO Convention C 87 and C 98.
  • Against Labour Law Amendments
  • Against FDI in Railways, Insurance and Defense.