With the threat of pink slipping looming large over the IT sector of the country, more than 100 software professionals in Tamil Nadu have signed to form a trade union. The resultant act from them has come a week after a group of employees complained against IT major Cognizant for pink-slipping them. Sources say that the union will lobby for women's safety and protect members' rights by holding IT firms to labour laws.
Tamil Nadu has an estimated 4.5 lakh employees in the IT space, many are reluctant to join the union because they worry their employers will disapprove or see them as trouble-makers.
Tamil Nadu clubs with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as the states that export the most IT services. Last year, the state changed laws to allow trade unions in the IT sector after hundreds of employees were laid off by tech giant TCS in 2015.
According to a report last year, Infosys has over 17,000 employees in Chennai, Wipro has 25,000, and TCS, India's largest software exporter, has 60,000 employees in 13 centres in the state."
Neighbouring Karnataka has not allowed trade unions at software companies. While the manufacturing sector has seen dominant and powerful unions for decades, the good pay and growth opportunities in IT meant that employees did not really feel the absence of a representative body. But as lay-offs take place and the $150 billion outsourcing industry is hit by a series of factors including Donald Trump's revision of H1-B visas for techies and automation, the gloss is wearing off.
Earlier this month, workers dismissed by Cognizant complained to the Tamil Nadu government that the reason cited for their removal - alleged non-performance - was a pretext by the firm to disguise lay-offs. In March, Cognizant trimmed 5% of its total strength of 260,000.
IT employers including Infosys and the government have said media reports and analysis by some head-hunters of a sudden uptick in lay-offs at IT firms are greatly exaggerated. A group of firms and analysts concur that the lay-offs this year will vary between 2 and 3% of the total workforce, higher than the 1-1.5% that the industry has clocked in recent years.