First birthday for Unites
Unites members with security guard members
Learning IT skills at UNIdoc Bangalore
|The UNI-launched union for workers in the fast growing IT-enabled industry in India has just celebrated its first birthday.
The union - active in IT hotspots like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi and Kerala - has already signed two collective bargaining agreements and has a major recruitment campaign going in several cities in the Indian company HCL and UK-based multinational HSBC.
Unites has begun to make the voice of IT workers heard in the media and has even managed to open a dialogue with the powerful Indian IT employers organisation Nasscom.
The union has also established links with the International Labour Organisation and the FES foundation and won support from organisations like SASK.
And it has been distributing UNI stress kits around India as part of UNI’s global Action Month in call centres.
“It’s stress that is driving a lot of people out of this industry,” said Unites General Secretary Karthik Shekhar.
Their aim is to bring the distinct flavour of a new generation trade union to a totally new, elite workforce in India. In Delhi the union enrolled 250 workers into a marathon and the union regularly works with organisations like the Lions and Rotary Club to take blood donations in the call centres.
Alternative medicine and yoga-based treatments are also promoted to counter a stressful work existence.
The union also talks to the academic community, who are producing the IT and IT-enabled workers of the near future.
“We want to get across the message that this is a new and unique union,” said NR Hegde, who heads UNI’s development and organisation centre - UNIdoc - in Banglaore.
“There is a lot of young blood in this industry and we want to tap into it,” said Karthik. “Many young people come into the call centres and back office centres attracted by cool money - but they don’t understand the health and safety issues.”
It’s not just stress and targeting and monitoring but the anti-social working hours bring their own risks. Protests were organised around India following the murder of an HP worker while being driven home from work - the taxi driver was later charged and HP penalised.
The union has had public success in embarrassing companies to take their transport arrangements more seriously and many cars now carry a sticker with a telephone number in the event of “rash driving”.
“We have started to make inroads into HSBC after a joint day of activities in January in Hyderabad and Bangalore and we have made contact with workers in the HSBC centre in Sri Lanka,” says Karthik.
Unites is also actively engaged in helping other UNI unions - like the security guard workers - and building alliances with civil groups - They recently helped organise a meeting for 300 women workers in conjunction with nurses, security guards and government workers
“We need to share our platform with other workers,” said Karthik.