Staff of IT companies cry foul over work environment

Venkatesh Ganesh Bengaluru | Updated on January 17, 2018

Employees of ITC Infotech (a mid-size IT company of the ITC Group) are on the warpath, claiming they are being victimised and not being allowed to form a union.

Several employees BusinessLine spoke to said they wanted to come together to protest against what they called the company’s unfair work policies. They wanted to get all employees together to brainstorm “thoughts and ideas” that could help them work better and weed out discriminatory practices.

Muqeemuddin Syed, a service delivery manager, wrote a mail to the company’s chief HR officer, Anand Talwar, on June 28, stating the staff “wanted to collectively come together and protest against numerous unfair work policies that are being shoved down our throats”. This mail was in response to an earlier mail by the management, which said that such acts would not be tolerated.

Coincidence or strategy?

What is significant is that such issues are starting to surface in the $150-billion IT industry at a time when new technologies like cloud computing and automation are making companies less dependant on engineers.

Other employees told BusinessLine that when a notice of the ‘coming together of employees’ was posted on the internal bulletin board, it was removed by the HR.

“This platform is provided to employees to express thoughts and ideas on work and your post is not in line with that,” said an HR note. “You are advised to refrain from attempting to advertise or garner any gathering amongst the employees or inviting any outsiders in this regard”, it added.

To a detailed e-mail query from BusinessLine, an ITC Infotech spokesperson, in a statement, said: “As a company, we pride ourselves in being a highly compliant and an ‘open door’ organisation. We uphold our core values, our policies, our governance, industry statutes and client confidentiality to the fullest extent. Consequently, access to our premises is controlled in line with industry practices and client needs. Further, we provide employees with various platforms to engage and express views on issues of employee experience, welfare, safety and grievance of any kind.”

Copies of all e-mails are with BusinessLine. An employee pointed out that as per labour laws, this diktat from the ITC Infotech management goes against the fundamental rights of an Indian citizen (under Article 19) to form associations or unions.

Employees claim they were forced to take on roles detrimental to their career when on the bench. “In a lot of cases, employees were called in by their PMO (Project Management Office) and informed that they have to submit their resignation after they were on the bench for more than one month,” says Syed.

Industry problem

Industry watchers say this is not an ITC Infotech-specific issue. “It is a clear case of companies not setting up internal complaints committees,” said a senior partner from a Big Four consulting firm, who could not be named due to company policy. According to a 2014 PwC survey, 40 per cent of respondents did not have trained personnel to handle these issues.

Some employees in other mid-size IT firms that BusinessLine spoke to said that such acts of intimidation and harassment are beginning to surface more often at their workplaces. One employee said that in his organisation, flap barriers had been installed at every entrance to monitor work schedules of employees. “The entire system is not transparent,” said Muralidhar N, who works for another mid-size IT company.

Published on July 07, 2016

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