Although BPO sector in India has grown tremendously over the last one and a half decade, employee unions are still struggling to find a place in the sector. India is a very big player in the outsourcing business and it seems amusing that BPO companies are least interested in empowering the voice of employees by establishing a union. Notably, some of the Indian writers like Chetan Bhagat and Praful Bidwai have even said that the BPO industries are treating their employees like cyber coolies. Moreover, a government aided labor institute’s report compares BPO employees with slaves in Roman ships. Obviously companies are ignorant to these things on a purpose. There are some reasons behind ‘not backing up union’ stand.
Fire at will
One of the biggest advantages that Indian BPO companies enjoy today is the ‘hire and fire’ rule. The unemployment in skilled professionals is high in India; therefore companies can afford to fire an employee for absurd reasons. For example, if an employee is ill and cannot work for a week, the company can fire and replace him without any explanation and he would have no place to complain about it. On the contrary, same cannot be done in the industries supported by labor or employee unions.
The working environment of some BPO companies in India is just pathetic. There is absolutely no hygiene, no facilities for the employees and arrogant & incompetent team leaders. Today, an employee cannot do anything about it. However, if employee unions were active, they would have demanded certain things from the management. Companies obviously don’t want such things as profit is the only thing that they have in mind.
Union means power
‘Unity is strength’, this saying may be old but is actually very true. Employee unions provide the much required strength to the employees against exploitation by management. With an employee union working effectively, management cannot issue absurd targets and orders. Firstly, strike is always a threat for the company and secondly, the psychology of having a group’s backing will always help an employee to deny pressure and exploitation.
Undeniably, activities related to employee unions decrease the productivity. It is not just applicable on the strike days but also on regular days. Employees will spend time in electing the head of union, discussing matters among themselves and with management. This decreases the overall productivity of the office on a given and day so BPO companies are usually ignorant about it.
Wages & Salaries
Finally, it is a very well-known fact that there is no preset standard for packages in the BPO sector. Some of the companies are paying way below the market rates and fresh graduates are usually the ones who fall for it. Employee unions will not only demand a raise at regular intervals but will also make sure that the company pays bonuses and high incentives. Surely BPO companies won’t like to spend this much when they can frequently hire new employees.
Now it remains to be seen that how BPO employees empower themselves. No doubt, employee unions will find their place in the coming years but with ignorance of top companies it looks like a distant dream for now.