NEW DELHI: After reports of large-scale layoffs in the information technology (IT) industry, affected employees are coming together to form unions which can help them fight unfair practices and forced removals at IT companies.
There is a variety of views on the relevance of unions in the IT sector. Industry veteran Mohandas Pai recently accused people trying to forge unions in IT industry of trying to “create a hype, fear-mongering”. He said, “Nobody is supporting them. People who go with them will never get jobs.” IT Employees’ Associations criticised Pai for his remarks.
No one can deny that forming or joining a union is everyone’s right. But the questions are: Is it favorable for IT employees to unionise to resist layoffs by companies? Should you join a union if you feel vulnerable in your company, or is it for only those who have already been laid off?
Unions help employees fight discriminatory practices of employers as most individuals don’t feel empowered to raise their voice against discrimination by organisation. Unions are mechanisms to settle employee-employer disputes which an individual employee does not have the means to.
Your decision to join the union should depend on whether you face discrimination in your company or fear you would be removed without a valid reason.
The current layoffs, however, might be driven by situations that cannot be mended by unions. New visa policies in the US, increasing automation and emerging technology are the main factors behind the layoffs, and not arbitrary policies of the industry.
The IT industry is governed by innovation and market forces. So far, Indian IT companies have been doing basic work which did not require any innovation or evolution. The companies profited mainly due to difference of wages in India and the US. They may not have anticipated the technology and government policy upsetting their business. Even the employees who did such work must have known it could not be a sustainable business model.
A private IT company cannot be forced to retain employees if that does not make business sense. It will impact its overall profitability and long-term prospects.
Unions are not a cure of the current problem which is not created by the employer’s style of functioning. However, if you face discrimination at work, a union might help you fight for justice when you are laid off in an unfair manner. If you are already laid off and you feel it was not merely due to the changed business environment, you can become part of a union and even move court.
However, if you have lost your job due to the changed business environment which is forcing most IT companies to lay off employees, the best course for you is to focus on finding another job or even try starting your own enterprise.