Thiruvananthapuram: Many Technopark-based IT firms including some of the tech giants reportedly are in the process of trimming their workforce by laying off under-performing employees.
Over the past few months, a huge number of employees has been shown the door following a resource action plan called PIP (performance improvement plan) - a commonly used parlance for retrenchment.
There were instances of people who had worked with the same company for over 10 years being handed out pink slips, it is learned.
Many of them have challenged the harsh and heartless move by the companies in courts apart from approaching the labor department for justice. The Technopark authorities have also received a deluge of petitions from the aggrieved workers, however, they are sympathetic but helpless.
It is alleged that while some of the companies are advocating initiatives to ensure job security to their workers, some others are strongly pursuing anti-employee policies. The government, who provided the land and other basic amenities to these companies to set up office here, is obliged to intervene in the issue, demanded the employees who got terminated.
There is only one objective behind putting experienced employees drawing Rs 1 lakh per month on a 'performance improvement' notice: if he/she gets terminated the company can hire five freshers by paying them a monthly salary of just Rs 20,000 or so.
If employees are sacked en masse, no demonstrations will be held in front of the company and nobody will come forward to protect their rights.
If a worker is being put on a performance improvement plan, it simply means he/she is a non-performer. So, many would opt for the voluntary separation program to save their career. Those who refuse to make use of the exit option will be driven out sooner or later.
Under PIP, employees would be given a specific period of time to improve, and failure to get better will result in termination of services. However, most of the companies would not assign any task to these employees during this period meant to improve their performance. Eventually, a majority of them would choose the exit option, because no company would hire an employee terminated by another firm.
If the company failed to secure new projects, a section of staff would be shifted to the talent pool. It would be testing times for those techies who are forced to sit idle. No fresh assignments in next two months simply means termination of service!
Cleaning staff earn more than many techies
Sanitation staff employed at the Technopark draw a monthly salary of Rs 8,000, besides PF and other benefits. Believe it or not, there are techies who earn just about Rs 5,000 per month!
Many companies that were established with the sole intention of availing government benefits have been denying salaries to their employees for long. But the issue remains unattended by the authorities concerned.
Recently, a Technopark-based IT firm refused to bear medical expenses of a woman techie, who met with a road accident. Finally, the victim's colleagues pooled in an amount of Rs 1 lakh to ensure proper treatment for her.
It is learned that 20 employees of a firm in Technopark have been waiting for their salaries for over a month.
There are even techies who work as drivers of online cabs during free time as it is difficult to make ends meet on a meager salary.
A recruiting firm functioning on the Technopark campus charge about Rs 40,000 each for a training program for aspiring candidates. The company promises to help them land a job after the one-year-long training.
However, most of these inexperienced hands get hired by companies for a meager salary of Rs 5,000. Moreover, during the 2-year lock-in period, there won’t be any salary hike. Also, they would not be allowed to move to another company.
Unfortunately, there is no system in place to monitor or curb such exploitation. Technopark authorities maintain that they cannot intervene in the internal affairs of companies operating there.
In 2008, when a major IT firm executed mass layoffs, the then Kerala government had attempted to resolve the issue by forming a committee comprising the representatives of the state, the company in question and its employees. However, the committee remained only on paper. It is alleged that the Technopark authorities acknowledge the existence of a company only when it fails to pay rent.
Deluge of complaints
The long-pending demand for a grievance redressal cell to at the Technopark was fulfilled recently. The key objective of the cell was to ensure the safety and security of women at workplace.
Interestingly, most of the complaints received by the cell were from women employees against their employers. They include: non-disbursal of salaries, denial of promotion, no salary hikes, sacking without proper reason etc.
As per records, around 60,000 people are employed by the 350 firms operating from Technopark which projects itself as an investor-friendly destination for IT companies. The 25-year-old campus is also poised to become one of the biggest IT parks in the country.
The pay gap between Technopark employees is huge. For example, you can find techies who earn anything around Rs 1 lakh, while there are many who get a meager Rs 5,000 per month.
In general, freshers from engineering colleges are offered an average salary of Rs 20,000. The employees are up against those companies that refuse to pay even one fourth of the wages offered to novices.
A thankless company
A tech expert who worked as a senior manager of a major IT firm based in Technopark for 19 years before being fired, says: “I was with the same company for about two decades. During the entire career, I worked diligently and produced solid results. But one fine day I was told that I would be put on PIP notice to give me an opportunity to improve my performance!
But everybody knows PIP is a warning which tells 'it is time for you to leave'. Youngsters can quit and find another job, but no company would be willing to offer a job to people like me who have crossed a certain age."