This is an important article written with intention to spread awareness about necessity of labor unions. We request every IT employee to forward this article within your friends circle. We at NDLF feel knowledge is wealth. We focus on building this knowledge to all IT employees more than involving legal litigation. We need help of IT employees to spread this knowledge to all. This article covers the recent strike in Chennai Yamaha factory as employees started forming union and its connection with difficulties of forming labor unions in IT sector.
Let us have a closer look on what is happening in Yamaha factory. Automobile industry has strong labor union movement and many leading automobile factories have dedicated labor unions inside their factory. Oragadam belt in Chennai has many leading automobile companies and Chennai is called Detroit of India due to many automobile factories located here. Yamaha factory has around 800 workers permanent and 2000+ contractor workers are employed in the factory.
Yamaha workers attempted to form labor union among employees called India Yamaha Motor Tholilalar Sangam (IYMTS) in June 2018 which is being registered. Labor union demanded bonus and other benefits and filed 2K petition in labor office of Sriperumbudhur. Yamaha management skipped these 2K meetings multiple times.
A meeting was scheduled on Sep 20th the evening under Industrial Dispute act in the presence of the officials from the Tamil Nadu Labour Welfare Board to discuss the welfare policies of the workers from the state. The Yamaha management, however, had not turned up for the meeting. Following the meeting, services of Rajamanikandan and Prakash who are the office bearers of the union were terminated. The management, so far, has not served any letter furnishing the details about the termination. When these workers tried to enter into the factory campus, their entry is restricted by security guards and they were informed about their termination.
As a result, all workers united and called for sudden sit-in-strike starting from Sep 21st.
Backing the two, 800 permanent workers went on sudden strike and even slept inside the factory as mark of protest. However 2000+ contract workers continue to work but were doing only reassembling work.
“The management denied sanitation facilities to the protesting workers. The company has even sent goons to the house of Prakash, and those goons have threatened Prakash’s mother and brother. Families of other protesting workers are also being threatened. Simply, the management is trying to disrupt the struggle of workers in all possible ways,” said Kannan Soundararajan of CITU
Labour commissionerate called tri-partie meeting to discuss the ongoing strike but the management of India Yamaha motor approached the Madras High Court claiming the strike is illegal. This petition came up before a single Judge and the judge posted the case for hearing after 2 weeks with the notice to be returnable by the office bearers of the trade union. Meanwhile strike is continuing for 5th day.
CITU president A.Soundararajan confirmed the developments and said “it is unfortunate at a time when reconciliation talks have been called for to sort out the issue. We will legally contest and may even move the court earlier than the stipulated two weeks’ time to put forth facts.”
Meanwhile, members of the CITU workers’ union across neighbourhood factories have also extended support to Yamaha workers union by joining them in their protest against the management.
A cross-section of the workforce continued to stay away from work at all the factories of three companies on Tuesday too. Thousands of workers, both permanent and contractual of India Yamaha, Royal Enfield, MSI Automotive workers have been protesting against the respective managements for not allowing formation of unions to safeguard their jobs as well collective bargaining on the wages front.
CITU official said that nearly 750 out of the total 805 permanent employees are involved in sit-in protest against the management for last few days.
As a result, the production has come down from 2,000 units a day to only 400 now. Similarly, some of the contractual workers at Royal Enfield plant at Oragadam/Vallam Vadagal have been on warpath from Monday as four of them were summarily dismissed by the management as they tried to form a labour union.
- Managements in many companies as part of cost cutting measures remove many of the benefits of employees by formulating policies. For example, if an employee did not clear an exam, company will cut down 25% of variable pay, Employee has to take leave during Christmas time, removing cab facilities for late night works, reducing various other existing benefits etc. The managements are taking decision on their own without getting consent of any of the employees. If we form union, we can seek explanation and get these benefits back for employees.
- Many of the IT companies have canteens which provide foods at high cost rates. There are not even minimum subsidy benefits for employees. We can seek for reduced cost in these canteens. This is just an example and there may be many such incidents.
- For any issue in many blue collar jobs or other sector where union exists, employees form groups and seek justice. Even though IT employees get higher salary, whatever happens to IT employees in the company or outside, nobody comes for their support. One typical example is having toll roads in centre of the city in IT corridors. Every section of people have feeling that IT employees are getting high salary and will not work and we can extract maximum from them. We can fight against these issues only if we have unions among ourselves.
- Retrenchment is happening across many companies and as per statistics 8000 employees committed suicide in last 5 years in IT sector due to work pressure and job loss. We have to fight against illegal retrenchment only with help of unions.
- Various issues faced by woman employees including midnight shifts, security benefits, crèche facilities etc can be obtained as part of collective bargaining only when we have unions.
So definitely forming union is not a bad thing and every employee should come forward to make union happen. But from Yamaha incident we will explore what are the risk and implications if unions are started in IT sectors:
- To register a union within a company, we need minimum 100 people in particular location. If we try register union inside the company, there is a high possibility that company may create issues for these members. This may be physical threats like Yamaha case, transfer of employee to different location, terminating core office bearers on ground of various compliance charges etc.
- Company with help of management will create its own union and try to make this genuine employee union lose relevance.
- Company psychologically weakens the union members by threat or various benefits and dissolve union
- They may seek government help and court with their money power to dissolve the union
The above are some of the core challenges of forming union. But, the company can stop several 100 employees but definitely cannot do that if it became several thousand strength.
Information technology is one of the top 5 sector in India in revenue perspective running in consistent profits for years. It has huge employee presence. The benefits reaped by previous generation employees are getting eroded like lesser wage hikes, reduced onsite opportunities, increasing job threats etc. This will naturally push IT employees towards forming unions in the coming years for sure.
If this has to happen, working IT employees should understand that unions is not only required when job loss happens but to address every issue of employee. More and more IT employees who are less than 5 year experience should take this initiative of forming union and then only we can reap the benefits of unions in IT industry. Companies also should understand that unions exist in many client project in different countries. If they did not stop illegal retrenchments in the near future, there is high chance that unions will become popular in IT sector in a few years from now.
NDLF is the first union who approached court and get confirmation from Tamil Nadu government that IT employees can form unions. We are confident that NDLF will be part of change in this IT sectors shifting towards union in the Yamaha way.
We as part of NDLF on behalf of IT employees stand in solidarity with Yamaha and other automobile company workers and wish for their success.
Shyam Sundar, President,
NDLF IT Employees Wing