THE PUNE chapter of the Forum for IT Employees (FITE) has become the first officially registered trade union for the IT sector in India. FITE, which has been at the forefront of fights against massive layoffs in the sector, was registered as a trade union by the office of the state Labour Commissioner in December. An organisation of IT employees, FITE was formed in Bengaluru a few years ago to fight the layoffs in IT sector. The Forum later set up chapters in other IT hubs like Pune, Chennai and Hyderabad. It used Facebook and other social media platforms to garner support and help laid-off employees seek legal recourse.
The FITE also helped affected employees file cases under the Industrial Disputes Act before the offices of the Labour Commissioner and the labour court. In Pune, over 70 such cases are pending before the Additional Labour Commissioner, while 17 cases have been referred by the latter to the labour court, after reconciliation attempts failed.
While work is in progress for the registration of FITE chapters in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana, the Pune chapter is the first one to be officially recognised as a trade union, said Elavarasan Raja, general secretary, FITE, Maharashtra. He said the Forum has been registered as a state-wide union and could “represent aggrieved employees anywhere”.
The FITE is also planning to set up a national federation of its chapters across India. Trade unionism is a relatively new phenomenon in the IT industry, and many software firms have questioned the legal validity of the unions. In many cases, firms located in the Special Economic Zone claim exemption from existing labour laws.
However, Pavanjit Mane, president of Maharashtra FITE, said the right to form a trade union is enshrined in the Constitution. “Most companies try to browbeat their employees against getting involved in unions…,” said Raja. FITE office-bearers said the Forum will collaborate with other unions to ascertain ways in which they can increase their membership and make their presence felt among IT employees. “We will hold awareness drives on legal issues, which will help employees learn their rights,” he said.
The Forum will also formally issue letters to IT companies. “We plan to have branches in every IT company, which will be formally registered with us,” said Raja. Dilip Pawar of the Shramik Ekta Mahasangh also pledged support to the FITE. “Job losses in this sector is a serious issue and we will help them prevent such illegal layoffs,” he said.