Bengal's IT dilemma: To unionise or not to unionise
Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 07:00 Hrs
Kolkata: The reformist West Bengal government disposes. But CITU, the trade union arm of the country's biggest communist party that rules the state, proposes anew. Outcome: hunt for a synthesis formula on trade unionism in the burgeoning IT sector.
The nascent West Bengal IT Services Association (WBISA) has not only rung an alarm bell in the city's IT hub, Sector V, but it has also raised furrows on the forehead of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharaya government that had promised to keep the 24X7 industry out of the clutches of militant trade unionism.
But the synthesis formula suggested by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) borders on the bizarre. It suggested that the Centre for Trade Unions (CITU) take the other states into its fold so that the IT industry in Bengal alone does not suffer or witness flight of capital.
"Bengal should not suffer. If the association is limited to the state, it can trigger a flight of capital. So, the employees' body should gain a foothold in IT and ITES sectors in other states as well to give Bengal a level-playing ground," Benoy Konar, a senior member of the CPM state secretariat and a central committee member, told reporters.
But CITU state president Shymal Chakraborty said the union does not have much presence in other IT hubs beyond Bengal. "Our move is confined to Bengal. I have no idea whether CITU has made an effort to organise IT workers at the central level or at other centres. CITU hardly has a presence there," said Chakraborty.
"If the IT companies treat their employees properly, then there is no reason for them to be apprehensive," Chakraborty felt. "Nobody would run away from Bengal. Formation of a union does not mean strike in the industry."
"Webel, WTL and some employees from IBM, CTS and Globsyn will join us. We are trying to rope in employees from Wipro, PricewaterhouseCoopers and other companies in Sector V and Rajarhat," Somnath Bhattacharya, CITU leader and secretary of WBISA, was quoted as saying in a local daily.
WBISA, formed by CITU, is supposedly the first such body for the employees of the IT and ITES industry.
The association will be unveiled in Sector V on Nov 17 with a rally. The Dec 14 general strike called by trade unions against the "anti-labour" policies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre would be a test for the fledgling union's strength.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharaya's stand on the issue is well-known. He does not want any hurdle in the smooth functioning of the IT sector and takes strong exception to any coercion on the part of any political party in preventing the employees of the sector from attending office.
Though Bhattacharya has not spoken out yet, state IT minister Debesh Das said the government would maintain a "neutral" stand.
"Employees have a right to form a union but nobody should coerce them," he said.
The IT companies are cautious in their reaction so far. "Let us watch how it shapes up," said a representative of a top IT company in Sector V.