The lack of legal protection continues to haunt IT workers, as yet another group of workers were left unemployed overnight, this time with unpaid wage dues, PF and certainly no compensation. 230 IT workers, most of them aged less than 29, had been working with C-Cubed, an American based company, found themselves out of work on January 19th 2015 after the company closed its branch in Coimbatore’s KGISL IT Partk SEZ. When the branch was closed, the company owed the employees, salaries for previous month.
According to the workers, C-Cubed which was started in 2000 in Bangalore was providing technical support services for Windows based infrastructure platforms. The company employed over 200 employees in Bangalore and started another branch with 230 employees in Coimbatore in 2010. In December, 2014, Microsoft sued the parent company. Customer Focus Services, based in Califorinia, for fraudulant technical support alleging that they misused their association with Microsoft and sold unnecessary technical support services to customers. However, the workers were promised that their employment will not be hindered by this legal fracas.
On January 19th, 2015, however the company changed its position and told the employees in both Bangalore and Coimbatore, that the company could not sustain the operation and pay its wages only after 6 months. It pressurized the workers to ‘quit voluntarily’ threatening to withhold relieving letter and experience certificate if they dont quit. The workers need these letters to secure further employment in this sector.
While many of the workers in Bangalore were said to have availed the voluntary termination, the Coimbatore workers went into an immediate in site protest and held a manager inside demanding that they are paid all their wages in full and given their relieving letter. Two managers from Bangalore came for negotiation, who were also held in the in site protest. On Jan 22, on the intervention of the Police Department and Collectorate, the case was refered to Labour Department. There was a conciliation meeting in Jan 22nd, where the management promised to give checks for wages to be paid in installments with in the month. While the workers accepted the conciliation, the management reneged on the agreement.
The incidence is yet another instance, on how the IT industry is able to violate all labour rights and practice unfair labour practices without any impunity. C-Cubed, employing over 230 workers, would have been held accountable, had it been classified under Factories Act and Industrial Disputes Act and would have to notify the government in the event of such mass termination of employment. With IT industries established under Shop and Establishment Act, there is no legal mandate and is flexible firing has become the norm, as was seen in TCS over two months ago. The industry practice of using relieving letter and experience certificate for authenticating workers’ experiences provides a virtual stronghold for the employers to browbeat the IT workers to submit to these exploitative conditions.
While the state is also opening red carpet welcome for companies to setup their services, the global nature of these companies does notprovide any clue on the opacity of their operations, which has adverse effects on the workers. The industry lobbies such as NASSCOM which have set up IT Skill registry to provide background verification about workers, have done nothing to do the same for the employers and protect the IT workers, even after such fraudulant practices emerging.
Over 80 workers of C-Cubed are continuing their valiant fight by unionizing under Forum for IT Employees and pursuing a legal case against C-Cubed. Incidentally C-Cubed still continues to operate in Bangalore with a skeleton work force. The workers also staged a protest in Coimbatore on April 18th, 2015.