Fresh engineering graduates hired by India’s fourth largest information technology firm, >HCL Technologies , staged a protest in front of the company’s offices in Noida, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad on Monday. They demanded that the company convert the offers to actual jobs.

These engineers were hired by the company in September 2011 and given Letters of Intent (LoI) to join the company in few months, but more than a year later, they are still waiting for the joining date.

Some 80 engineers gathered in front of HCL Tech’s office in Noida Sector 3 where the top brass of the company sits, including Vice-Chairman and Joint Managing Director Vineet Nayar and Chief Executive Officer Anant Gupta.

For the Noida protest, freshers came from colleges HCL had visited in August 2011 and made placement offers, including Maharaja Surajmal Institute of Technology, Amity, Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology, GB Pant Engineering College and Guru Tegh Bahadur Institute of Technology.

According to students coordinating the protests, freshers from colleges like Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management (Hyderabad), Andhra University, Maharashtra Institute of Technology (Pune), Vellore Institute of Technology (Tamil Nadu), and Sastra University (Tamil Nadu) protested at the gates of various offices of the company.

“As soon as we gathered to protest in front of the HCL office, we were called in by some senior officials, who asked us to sit for four hours in the auditorium. We asked for clarity on joining, but the officials kept repeating, ‘we will let you know by August’,” Piyush Khandelwal, one of the protesters, told Business Line .

He said the freshers were also given the option to join HCL Infrastructure instead of HCL Tech (for which they got the LoIs), but at a lesser salary. Business Line had written about the issue in early February.

“The company asked us to join for a Rs 2.75 lakh a year salary, which is lower than the Rs 3.25 lakh offered during campus recruitment. Also, we have been asked to take an entrance test afresh for joining HCL Infrastructure,” he said.

However, the company said it is an option offered to the hired students, who can join the company immediately as the vertical has vacant positions. And, even if they fail the test, the LoI will still hold for the HCL Tech vertical and they can join the company once positions get created, a company official said.

“We have openings for around 400 people there and few may open up soon. We have asked these freshers to join us there at the same positions as they were offered in the LoI (as Graduate Engineer Trainee),” Nitin Pande, Vice-President – HR, HCL Technologies, told Business Line .

He said the company will be able to decide on taking in more candidates by August and will decide on a timeline to on-board these freshers as, by then, HCL would have finished its business planning.

But the unemployed freshers were furious over the delay and demanded to know why the company had given the LoIs if it did not plan to on-board them.

“On one hand, the company is showing positive results quarter-on-quarter, why are they doing such things. We just want clarity just like other companies have done. Infosys, which had hired our friends during same time has at least given them the assurance and joining dates of early 2014,” said one of the protesters requesting anonymity.

“We are not even asking for salary for the first three months, as we want to work with this company and that too in HCL Tech, not HCL Infrastructure. We were hired as Software Engineers and in Infrastructure , it is like a BPO job, which we can’t do and lose our career,” said Anshul from Agrasen Institute of Technology.

The engineers and students shouted slogans against the company and said they were ready to go on a hunger strike from Tuesday, should HCL Tech hold back information about the joining date.

The company called in the police which asked the protestors to meet the District Magistrate.