Statement of the Maharashtra Regional Council of the Lok Raj Sangathan and the Kamgar Ekta Committee
Dear Tech Professionals,
All of you are trained and skilled in one of the most modern of all technologies. You have invested a considerable amount of time, money, energy and sincerity in picking up these skills. When you got this job, with what hope and pride your family would have looked at you! And you yourself had confidence in your abilities, and belief that you were on your way in a very sought after career! Maybe you were over the moon with your starting package. Maybe it was not quite what your friend got, but you hoped you would soon get a bigger one.
That may have been a few years back. The industry was booming. Opportunities seemed to be endless. The sky seemed to be the limit.
Slowly things started to change. You realised that everything was not as rosy as you initially thought. The work was demanding. At times it seemed to be never-ending. Your social life went for a toss. Your stress levels frequently went too high for comfort. You saw your friends fall prey to many health problems like back and neck problems, blood pressure, diabetes, and so on much too early in life.
There came a time when retrenchments started. Maybe the first to be retrenched from your company were those unknown to you. The official story was that those guys were not competent enough. But then one day the person who was sacked was the very one who had got performance awards for many years! Things were definitely not what they were being made out to be …
The number of sackings grew and grew. We all know that by now tens of thousands of tech professionals have been thrown out from large companies like Cognizant Technologies, Wipro, Infosys, Tech Mahindra, TCS, Capgemini, Vodafone, etc. as well as hundreds from many smaller companies. Many more have been put on notice and could be fired any time. The drive to reduce costs and bolster profits through automation and artificial intelligence may lead to lakhs of tech workers losing their jobs in the coming years, as has been openly admitted by the NASSCOM and other industry associations. The H1B visa policy of the US government has posed an additional threat.
Today the scene is that every tech worker is living in fear. “Will today be my last day in office? Will I be asked to resign or be fired and put on the black list if I dare to question it? How will I get another job?” “How will I face my family (or girlfriend / boyfriend) if I lose my job?” “How will I be able to return the loan I have taken? What will happen to my old parents and children?” Many such questions may be gnawing at you.
What Could We Do? What Should We Do?
Don’t worry! There are many things that we could and should be doing. The immediate thing is to get unionised. Don’t believe those who tell you (including some government authorities) that tech professionals are not workers and hence do not have a right to unionise! That’s just rubbish. Designating you as “managers” or “team leaders” and so on is in the interest of the company and not in your interests! Denying that you are a worker is to the benefit of the company and against your interests! This is the stratagem of the companies, but please don’t get fooled by it!
Who says that highly educated employees, engineers and so on cannot unionise? Train drivers, aircraft maintenance engineers are unionised. Who says that high salaried people cannot be unionised? Professors, airline pilots are unionised! Bank officers as well as insurance professionals are also unionised.
Of course you are a worker. Don’t you earn your salary by working for someone else? You have every right to form a union. The Constitution gives you this right. If you live in a state that doesn’t recognise this right, its government can be challenged in the High Court through a writ petition.
We know that the Forum for IT Employees (FITE) in Chennai is already in the process of filing an application to be recognised as a union. Others in other states may have also done that. You too should do the same. Some workers in Pune and Mumbai are showing that courage. You too should join in and strengthen their hands! “Cowards die a thousand deaths. The brave die just once.” How true this proverb is! And it is not even a question of dying in this case.
Joining a Union makes you strong, not weak. The more of you that join, the stronger will you be! Build your Union on the principle, “An Attack on One is an Attack on All!” and no one will be able to stop you.
Once there are recognised unions in several states, you will be able to form a federation, which will be able to tremendously increase your power. It is good if all your unions speak in one voice. That will be possible if you insist on taking decisions in a democratic way, harmonising the interests of everyone. Believe us, it can be done!
We know that most tech workers feel very vulnerable because they can be retrenched in a jiffy. That has been happening because enough of you are not aware of your strength. Please don’t forget that if most of the Indian tech workforce stops working for a day, not just in India, but even in the US, Europe and other countries, life as well as most businesses would be severely affected!
Remember what happened recently at Heathrow Airport in London? When its computer system failed, the British Airways had to suspend all its flights for a few days.
Beware of political parties that will try to “takeover” your Union. This is a disease that afflicts the majority of the big unions in our country. They are under the control of one political party or another, which uses them for its own electoral gains. You should welcome any political party or other organization that is willing to support you as long as it gives its support unconditionally, without interfering with your organization’s actions. Such support is necessary to strengthen your voice.
What the tech workers are facing today is what workers in other sectors like manufacturing have faced a hundred years ago. They too did not have any rights. They did not have the right to organise and form unions. Every right that they have won so far has been won through struggle, including the right to permanent jobs, the eight hour working day and other benefits. This is true all over the world.
Today the capitalists, the owners of enterprises, are trying to turn the wheels of history backward in the organised sector as well. The number of “permanent” jobs is being cut down. It is happening not only in manufacturing, but also in the service sector – transport, health, education, administration, etc.
No matter what the company owners may say, about how they are eager to provide jobs for the people, about how they care for their workforce, about “corporate social responsibility” and so on, the fact is that they are just interested in maximising their profits. They have to keep making these noises; they have to keep fooling the people, because they are so few. The experience of workers in all countries where capitalism prevails is that workers have to fight for their rights. Not only that, they have to fight for the implementation of rights which they have formally won and they have to fight to safeguard these rights.
Dear Professional Tech Workers,
We urge you to unite and form your Union and also seek support of other Unions and organisations in the spirit, “An Attack on One is an Attack on All!”
Kamgar Ekta Committee: Airport Authority of India Employees Union, Air India Service Engineers Association, All India Loco Running Staff Association, All India Guards Council, All India Station Masters Association, All India Voltas Employees Federation, BEST Workers Union, Ladaku Garment Mazdoor Sangh, Mumbai Municipal Mazdoor Union, Western Railway Motormen’s Association
Lok Raj Sangathan: http://www.lokraj.org.in/