“Things are changing” Lulu quipped. When parrots are lost in thinking they suddenly speak out their conclusion. A statement like that invariably arouses my curiosity. It is like Sherlock Holmes having discovered the culprit, is making announcement at the beginning of the story.
“What’s that Lulu? What are you referring to?” I kept aside my newspaper.
“Did you read the Tech Mahindra story? Eleven IT guys have gone to the Labour Court.”
“Yup! The lost their jobs. There have been mass retrenchments. They call them lay-offs in the American style. Poor boys and girls – what will they do now?”
“My sympathies. But a rubicon is crossed.”
“What does that mean?”
“They have taken a step which they can’t retrace. It will most probably influence future events.”
“Hmmm….. I would agree with you. This was in the offing, we saw it happening when a lady employee of TCS knocked the Court doors.”
“And there were the Wipro employees who protested and have approached the Court.”
“Right, I read this too. I really wonder what is happening, we will soon see Labour Courts having more disputes from the IT or ITES, than the manufacturing industry. It wasn’t like this earlier.”
“That’s because they were immediately employed by some other IT company. You don’t need Labour Court and Unions when other employers are waiting in the wings to offer a job.”
“That’s true” I said, “Our Society is so litigious that everything goes to the Court.”
“It takes severe feeling of injustice and helplessness for an employee to go to the Court. Even Unions take their grievances to the Court only when they can’t address it by negotiation or by show of force.”
“Hmmm….. You have a point, Lulu. In the case of Wipro employees, NDLF or New Democratic Labour Front is calling this as ‘This is the first petition filed by a registered trade union against any IT major in India.’”
“And the Tech Mahindra employees have knocked the door of the Court individually. So all avenues are now used. This is surely a development which can’t be missed.
“Why don’t we consider the employers’ plea? Economic forces are such that they have no choice. You can’t expect them to carry on with the redundancy of workforce. What is wrong with that?” I asked Lulu. “We can’t look at the problem only from one angle.”
“The point was severe feeling of injustice. It comes because the way things are handled.”
“Are you referring to the audio clip which went viral? And that leading to public apology of Anand Mahindra?”
“No. I am not. It is becoming fashionable to record audio clips. This is like the ‘sting operations’. Both caught the imagination of the public. I know from reliable sources, I am not referring to the Tech Mahindra audio clip, that audio clips are also misused like those sting operations.”
“There are instances where the employee who is going to lose the job engages the HR Manager in a long a repetitive conversation – he kind of sets up the HR Manager. When audio clip is played, it arouses public sympathy. But this is now oft used approach. It is losing its impact.”
“Wow! Never knew that!! Then why are you objecting to the ‘way things are handled?’”
“Look at how the system operates. Let me read out what New Democratic Labour Front has placed on their website.
We understand that the above categories [Employees unfairly rated as under performers and still working in the company and Employees unfairly rated as under performers, forced to resign, and left the company] were created primarily due to a concept called Band Inertia introduced by Wipro as part of appraisal system. This especially targets the senior employees. In addition, many other junior employees (who were not part of Band Inertia) also face the above situation.
Our members informed us that the logic of band inertia is as below:
If a person is in the same band for 7 years, he/she will be part of band inertia. In this case, performance of the employee is not considered and HR asked managers to mark “More Contribution Expected (MCE)” or “Unsatisfactory contribution UC)” to these employees.
If the employee is in a project, they are released to bench.
Primary target of Band inertia is people in Band B3 and above (Senior people whose experience is more than 10 years).
The main problem here is that if there are 1000 people in one band, only 50 positions are available for promotion. Hence, in 7 years, about 350 people will be promoted and remaining 650 people will come under Band inertia.
Many employees were rated as under performers as per Band Inertia policy or otherwise in a non-transparent appraisal system.
“Interesting. This will constantly force people to upgrade their competencies and move up the hierarchy ladder.”
“This is brilliant. Every product or service has a minimum price and a maximum too. Nobody will offer you a price below a certain level and nobody will pay you more than the max. This must be realised even by working men. If they are not ‘relevant’ constantly, they are outdated and no organisation will feed them.”
“Ha ha…. Easy to talk this economic theory. In practice it does not work out like that, every organisation realises that steady performers add good value. In any case, to create a process for mechanically weeding out a group of people deemed to be ‘non-performers’ by virtue of their populating a certain band for a certain duration is an invitation to trouble. You are not dealing with machines; you are dealing with men. Their performance and development is also a function of supervision and other factors. It is wrong to place entire onus of development on an employee.”
“You have a point there, Lulu. In many countries abroad an employee is not asked to leave as long he or she does assigned job well. That’s not the case here, they have been asked to leave.”
“That’s right. And perhaps more will go. The IT men never wanted to be identified as ‘industrial workman’, now they don’t mind. That is why things are not the same….”
“Let us watch how the Labour Courts view ‘Band Inertia.’ In any case, sooner IT industry learns to manage their employees in a more humane way, the better it will be for all.” Lulu looked at me, hopped from the edge of my laptop where he was perched to my shoulder.
The bird’s hmmm…. Lulu’s eye view no longer means the same to me.
Vivek S Patwardhan