Karnataka Gives Green Signal To Unionisation Of The Information Technology Sector

Karnataka Gives Green Signal To Unionisation Of The Information Technology SectorEmployees at an IT startup in Bengaluru (Hemant Mishra/Mint via Getty Images)

Trade unions trying to muster up employees of the Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled services (ITES) industry have seem to have gotten their first breakthrough. The Karnataka labour commission has given the go-ahead for the formation of the Karnataka State IT/ITES Employees Union (KITU) under the Trade Union Act, 1926, and Karnataka Trade Unions Regulations, 1958, reports The Economic Times.

This is a significant moment for us, being the first dedicated IT employee union. The formation of the union was possible because there were enough number of IT employees facing (various) issues. We will be able to address these issues with vigour with the formation of an IT union.
KITU General Secretary Vineeth Vakil

Of the 4 million employees of the IT and ITES sector across India, Bengaluru alone is home to 1.5 million of them.

During the last year, an increasing number of IT employees have been turning to the courts seeking redressal of grievances such as layoffs as well as increased working hours. Protectionist olicies and automation in key markets such as the United States have affected India’s $150 billion IT industry, forcing employers to go in for major layoffs, reduced increments and other pullbacks. Employees have in the past approached bodies like the Forum for IT Employees (FITE), the National Democratic Labour Front-IT (NDLF-IT) and the Union for IT/ITES (UNITES) for help in legal matters.

IT industry body NASSCOM had predicted in June this year that India’s IT export growth would remain at seven to eight per cent, mainly due turbulence in the United States – the sector’s largest market. However, in November NASSCOM president R Chandrashekhar said that next year could see positive growth due to increased number of investments.

Labour unions in India – predominantly seen in the manufacturing industry – have fought factory owners for higher wages, job security and other demands. In the IT sector, employees have been cautious of treading down that path due to rumours that companies blacklist such troublemakers.

The Karnataka IT union is backed by the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), an affiliate of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)).

Increase automation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has been blamed as the principle cause behind lay-offs and pink slips. IT majors such as Infosys and Cognizant have shown reduced employee strengths in the recent past.

Traditionally, unionisation of the IT industry has been a sticky wicket, often acting as a deterrant for international firms when foraying in to certain markets with tougher labour laws. Instances government-backed unions intervening in affairs of companies resulted in relocation of several near-shore centers in the Eastern Caribbean Islands and Barbados during the peak of the labour arbitrage era. KITU's formation falls in line with the emergence of a ‘Tech Left’, with employees beginning to confront employers.

Also Read: Trade Unions Were The “New Menace” Even In The 1950s