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BPO workers now have an 'Agony Aunt'

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Last Updated: November 16, 2006, 12:37 IST

<b>BPO workers now have an 'Agony Aunt' </b>

In West Bengal, IT is being used as a powerful tool to unionise the people working in the IT sector.

Kolkata: Is your manager misbehaving? Is your boss over-friendly? Are you facing harassment at workplace? Are you a victim of over-surveillance? If yes, then the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) could help.

A man barking over the phone at an employee like in Bollywood movies, an unwelcome male colleague clasping the neck of a woman from behind and a caricature of the Uncle Sam -- representative of the outsourcing industry -- keeping surveillance on a beleaguered man: these are the banners on the orange coloured www.wbitsa.org, the website of West Bengal Information Technology Services Association (WBITSA), the nascent IT sector union of Centre for Indian Trade Union.

Nothing was more ironical when IT was used as a powerful tool to unionise the IT sector as the site was launched by CPI-M's enfant terrible and the Chief Minister's bugbear Subhas Chakraborty.

The local MLA and West Bengal's Youth and Transport Minister unveiled the website before a thousand-strong crowd, which hardly comprised the suave IT sector employees. The IT hub in Salt Lake's Sector V falls under Chakraborty's Assembly constituency.

The natty IT folks walked past the function, but did not join the 'movement' yet. But with the launch, Bengal IT does have the one and only avuncular Buddhadeb Bhattacharya now to protect them.

Much to perhaps the suppressed displeasure of reformist Bhattacharya, WBITSA would now position itself to be the new agony uncle of the 24X7 industry.

Trust CITU or WBITSA to protect you in the mean cubicles of IT firms. A visit to the website www.wbitsa.org can make things clear where one can fill up a form and lodge a complaint against the employer.

"A few of the companies are reluctant to adhere to the prescribed norms as defined in the relevant clauses of industrial relations as well as rules related to shops and establishments act," CITU state president Shymal Chakraborty said.

Said a WBITSA functionary: "The government of West Bengal has declared this sector as essential service by relaxing the restrictions on fixed weekly holidays and all units of this sector can go for 24x7 working hours provided they ensure conformity to the 48-hours weekly working."


According to WBITSA, women are the most vulnerable section of the workforce in the IT sector.

"Women employees working in night shifts require additional protection and security. They also require sufficient conveyance. In some cases, it has been seen that adequate arrangements are wanting at odd hours," says the website.

Said WBITSA secretary Somnath Bhattacharya: "We are aware of the realities of this sensitive sector. Not only are we urging the employees to join us, we are also seeking support of the entrepreneurs for the growth of the sector and the welfare of the people involved in the industry."

Added Shyamal Chakraborty: "Formation of unions does not necessarily imply strikes. But we have got complaints from the employees about the wrong treatment meted out to them in this sector besides retrenchment without notice."

He said the website had already evoked a positive response with as many as 31 employees of IT companies expressing keen interest in WBITSA. According to WBITSA, the organisation would fight for issuance of formal appointment letters with well-defined terms and conditions of service to employees, 48-hours weekly work schedule and other statutory amenities.

Senior officials from over 100 IT companies, including Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Cognizant and Globsyn, earlier attended a meeting to chalk out counter-strategies against formation of unions.

However, the December 14 general strike called by the Left trade unions against the 'anti-labour' policies of the United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre would be a test for the fledgling IT union's strength. Meanwhile, a debate rages in the CPI-M on whether IT should be treated as essential services.

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    (This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - IANS)
    first published:November 16, 2006, 12:37 IST
    last updated:November 16, 2006, 12:37 IST