The following article is written by K Khan, an IT employee and a member of All India IT Employee Association (AIITEA). With the crisis ridden Kingfisher airlines still trying to stay afloat thanks to government inaction and continuing delays in employees salaries that have led to strikes, this article looks at the lack of unionization of workers in these corporatized sectors and the urgent need to form unions in the face of economic downturn.
Like all other Kingfisher products, the launch of Kingfisher airlines was a very glitzy event, and it was touted as the start of “Good Times’ for the air travel industry. Kingfisher was considered to be the airline of choice for the elite class.
No one could have ever imagined at the time that underneath all the glitz and glamour there was a big problem inherent within.
Imagine if 3 years ago you tried to tell the ‘Smart Bankers” and the ‘Most Intelligent Auditing Consultants’ that there could be a potential risk with Kingfisher. They would have simply looked at you as if you had just walked out of a mental asylum.
But alas even now, after the mess is uncovered, many of us still have not learnt any lessons. We still have not woken up and started to ask the questions. Some of the questions that linger in the mind are:
- How do we trust the ‘best’ auditing firms that are declaring several corporate as most profitable, the audit reports that cause the ups and downs in the share market and decide the economical future of the country. Wasn’t Satyam, Dabhol / Enron, and Kingfisher all audited by the large consulting firms?
- How do we trust the banks? We trust our money with them, but they instead invest it on shady and risky deals. Imagine that despite all the proof, large banks like SBI chose to continue supporting Kingfisher. While poor farmers continue to commit suicide for being hounded for repayment of loans, big businessmen like Vijay Mallya continue to enjoy the ‘Good Times’ on the generosity of the Governments and the Bankers. Is it because the banks gamble on the depositors trust? Will capitalism ever hold such greedy bankers accountable for the riskiest gambling they indulge in, or will they continue to hog large bonuses while employees get laid off and depositors lose money when the going gets rough?
- Why does the ‘White Collared Employee’ continue to consider employee unions and associations a stigma? Is it because labour unions have the word Labour in them, whereas the white collared employee is an ‘Executive member’? Have we not learnt anything from the unfolding of the Kingfisher and Satyam fiasco crises? Is there any white collared employee that is seriously thinking of protecting their family interests in case the going becomes rough?
- Can we not force the Government to create policies to protect the employee interests and take minimal steps before these companies are granted permits and licences for running their businesses and availing loans etc, like an ‘escrow policy’ for the employee salaries. If this is not done, then we may see many more ‘Successful re-runs’ of the Kingfisher and Satyam episodes with other companies too in the near future.
- When do the anti-corruption activists realize that corruption starts with large corporate bribing governments for the sake of increasing profits for their business? Why don’t they focus on bringing transparency into the corporate world and uncover the murky dealings? Large amounts are paid by corporate companies. What a common man pays for bribes is just a speck of dust. Distracting away the focus towards such small corruption is just a ploy to keep the corporate company dealings in the shadows while the world focuses on miniscule issues. How many times haven’t we heard where a CEO or Chairman of a company has gone on record describing the way they deal with Government establishments?
- Why is it that nobody thinks of protecting employee interests if the going becomes tough for a company
Now, coming back to the topic of the Kingfisher airlines, it is such a shame that even now many ‘White Collared’ employees shun the thought of an employee union. Who is to be blamed for this sense of this over optimism? While the industry heads keep harping that unions and associations are meant only for the Labour class, but they carefully keep in dark the fact that NASSCOM, CII, and many other such groups are associations and unions formed by the rich masters to ensure that together they can influence the Governments to frame policies that are in the interest of the managements (no matter which party comes to power they are always able to get their way through).
It is high time the white collared employees joined hands together and politely (and professionally) raised questions to their managements as to why is there a fear of employee unions in the mindset of the managements? Why does the management discourage employees forming unions? Is it because they are afraid of the transparency they will have to adhere to?
We have already experienced many scams and scandals. We have seen the glorious rise and shameful fall of many corporate companies, yet the middle class ‘White Collared’ sector is yet to understand the realities and wake up to take its rightful position in the social and economic decisions.
While it is common to hear from IT employees that they cannot form or join a union or association because their company policy does not allow them to do so. It is very ironic that the very same ‘educated’ (many of them Engineering and PG Graduates with MBAs from top notch colleges) have unfortunately not taken the time to read and understand the constitution of India carefully. It is also shameful that neither the Government nor any of the Unions themselves have come out to explain the ‘Educated IT Employees’ that as per the Article 19(1) C of the constitution of India, it is every Citizen’s “Fundamental Right” to form or join a union or association. It is so sad that even in the age of information technology, the educated and graduate masses are ignorant about their basic fundamental rights.
All India IT Employee Association (AIITEA)