IT/ITES employees are not the only newly emerged group after 1990s. Just like IT employees, workers of other newly created job categories were also denied labour rights guaranteed under Indian constitution and various central and state laws.
Drivers, technicians and managerial staff of private educational institutions are one such new category. In Tamil Nadu alone, there are more than 500 private engineering colleges, about 25 private medical colleges and several hundred more para medical, polytechnic and arts & science colleges. Each private institution employs vehicle drivers, technicians, office staff and managers in addition to teaching faculty members.
In one such private institution, Sathyabama University – Chennai, these workers were denied all labour rights claiming that the university is a charitable, not for profit trust and hence the workers can not claim their rights such as casual leave, paid leave and medical benefits. Sathyabama University treated these workers as use-and-throw commodities, not even maintaining formal record of their employment.
New Democratic Vehicle Drivers and Technicians Union was formed in the year 2008 to fight for the rights of these workers. Withstanding all attacks, false propaganda and deviousness of the management, the union has succeeded in winning labour rights one by one.
The Union fought fought for and got proper appointment order for all employees and achieved considerable progress in fighting for ESI benefits (medical insurance) and insisting on maintenance of formal records of all employees.
On March 23, 2017 Chennai Highcourt tribunal ordered the management to pay bonus to all drivers and technicians. It rejected the argument by the university and held that the university is a commercial entity providing bus transport, hostels, canteens, tour programs as subsidiary business along with paid eduction. These institutions have amassed hundreds of acres of land, buildings and other assets worth hundreds of crore rupees.
This victory by New Democratic Vehicle Drivers and Technicians Union is a path breaker for all the informal workers employed in organized sector.
The argument by private educational institutions were similar to the one put forward by corporates in IT sector : ‘We are service industry’, ‘we employ people as associates and managers’, ‘we serve US market’, hence labour laws are not applicable to us. All these arguments were put to naught by the efforts of NDLF – IT Employees Wing when we made Tamil Nadu government to acknowledge the right of all IT Employees to form unions, file grievances under Industrial Dispute Act and exercise rights granted under Indian constitution and relevant labour laws.
The victory by Vehicle Drivers and Technicians Union in winning bonus rights is a shot in the arm for IT sector too. Our pay, variable pay, annual bonus – all are earned by our work and guaranteed under laws. The management does not have the discretion to deny the pay citing some flimsy reason.
By strengthening New Democratic Labour Front – IT Employees Wing, we can further consolidate our work place rights, job security and work life balance.