Chennai's Information Technology hub saw increased police presence on Thursday evening. Over 50 men and women in khakhi were stationed around the Sholingannalur signal, with their eyes trained on a small piece of land cordoned off with barricades. Hung on these metal frames were posters denouncing capitalism, alleging unscientific appraisals and unethical layoffs.
The crowd within the demarcated area was sparse but that did not stop the organiser of the New Democratic Labour Front (IT Wing) from loudly announcing on the mic, that a group was ready to take on the city's IT majors. The companies were accused of 'caring about profits and not humans'.
This mass campaign initiated by the NDLF against Wipro, Cognizant, Tech Mahindra, IBM and other IT companies, comes after a series of layoffs by these organisations. According to reports, in the last two months Wipro has sacked 600-700 employees, Cognizant has fired 6000-10000 employees and even Infosys has reportedly let off of 9,000 employees.
"Employees were given low rating in an arbitary appraisal system, denied work based on this reason and even threatened by HR managers. Several of them have been to resign from their jobs," explains Suresh, the legal adviser of the NDLF. "We are challenging these companies which are illegally laying off employees," he adds.
Members of the NDLF told The News Minute that that they had even met the labour department secretary P Amudha regarding this issue. "But she spoke to us in the language of the corporates," says S Karpaga Vinayagam, the organiser. "Employees are being blamed for not updating their skill sets. She is saying that if she supports employees, then all IT majors will leave the state," he alleges.
The NDLF, during this demonstration used the state's transport union as an example to highlight the need for IT employees to be unionised. "If we want the Government and employers to listen to us, we need to display unity," said Vinayagam on the mic. A statement that seemed to be made rather out of desperation, due to the evident lack of IT employees at the site. When asked about the small number of affected employees present organisers said most feared backlash from their companies, such as being blacklisted by NASSCOM. Several employees, they claim, preferred to remain anonymous.
Some employees who did turn up for the event, claim they were forced to resign despite having performed well. "I have been in the IT sector for 15 years. I joined my current company only 13 months back," says Appaji, who was present at the venue. "I had been performing very well. But suddenly, last month, they came up to me and said I was not performing well. They then literally forced me to resign," he alleges.
An employee from Cap Gemini, who was at the protest, told TNM that every company has a set of internal rules. They determine how under-performers are dealt with. "They should ideally put under-performers in the performance improvement plan. They are then monitored for six months. You can't simply ask them to resign," he says.
With over 150 termination mails, reportedly in their possession, the NDLF is currently in the process of filing grievance petitions on behalf of affected employees with the Labour department.