New Delhi: Even as India’s IT industry gets its first taste of trade unionism with the Left-backed CITU asking them to join the countrywide stir on December 14, the International Labour Organisation on Wednesday said the employees of Indian BPOs are well within their rights to unionise themselves.
ILO Director Kari Tapiola was quoted by news agency PTI as saying that the national level unions can also reach out to the BPOs.
"All employees, whether in formal or informal sector, need to have their voice and a bargaining partner," Tapiola said.
However, Tapiola also made clear that the decision of siding with any of the trade unions must lie with the employees of the BPOs.
"It is legitimate for them (national unions) to reach out to the employees who will have to accept you and no administrative decision should be forced from outside," Tapiola said.
The remarks from the ILO Director assume significance in the light of the raging debate that’s been going on in West Bengal over on whether the white collar employees of the IT sector should be roped into the trade unions.
While some of the Left parties want extension of trade unions to this sector, the employers and many of the state governments have not supported this idea.
Tapiola said according to the ILO principles, workers should not be penalised for forming associations.
"Employers should in fact, encourage and not stop them from organising themselves," he said. During his week long visit here, the ILO Executive Director has met Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes and senior government officials.
CITU has called for a nationwide strike on December 14 that threatens to cripple essential services across West Bengal.
Congress-affiliated INTUC and RSS-backed BMS would stay away from what they called a "politically motivated" strike.
The Sponsoring Committee of these unions, including CPI(M)-affiliated CITU, CPI-backed AITUC, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, AICCTU, TUCC, UTUC and UTUC-LS, said there is an urgent need to step up pressure on the government through mass struggles.
The unions have accused the UPA of being indifferent to the sufferings of people and ignoring rising prices of essentials.
The strike has been called to demand jobs and a cut in the prices of essential commodities, and is likely to be observed most strongly in communist-ruled West Bengal.
Kolkata prepares for the worst
Several airlines have cancelled their operations to and from Kolkata in the wake of the nationwide trade union strike call.
"We have cancelled all our flights from and to Kolkata on Thursday keeping in mind convenience of passengers and our employees," a spokesman for state-carrier Indian, was quoted by news agency Reuters as saying.
Indian operates 22 daily flights from Kolkata. Jet Airways, too, said it had cancelled its 14 flights from the city. Kolkata airport director V K Monga was quoted as saying that contingency plans had been made to help those airlines who decide to operate.
Paramilitary troops were seen standing guard outside the airport.
(With inputs from agencies)