Feeds

Euro unions eye Indian closed shop

Our offshore brothers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A delegation of European unions will tour Indian call centres next week to investigate an industry scheme to register the country's call centre employees in a biometric database.

Visiting under the umbrella of Union Network International (UNI), a workers' association, they will also be checking on working conditions and dropping in on fledgling professional associations that are being groomed by the international union movement.

Peter Skyte, national organiser for Amicus, a union in Britain and Ireland, said he was concerned a database would allow employers to keep tabs on employees.

Launched in January by an Indian trade body representing employers, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), will store biometric, personal, professional and educational details of workers in IT and outsourcing industries.

"Unless you are on that [database], you won't get a job," Skyte said. " I want to talk this through with Nasscom."

"Employees could be struck off the register and lose their livelihoods on a whim," he said. "If you have an argument with your boss in Wipro or Tata, what's to stop them saying to Nasscom they want you struck off?" he added.

Skyte will be joined on tour by UNI representatives and unions LBC NVK from Belgium and HK from Denmark and will also be concerned to see that Indian call centre workers are being "treated fairly".

Yet their concern sits side by side with self-interest. The unions have loudly opposed the outsourcing boom that has seen so many of their members' jobs outsourced to India.

Indian call centre workers are cheap and poorly protected, which is why so much work has been given to them by European firms. The centres are reputedly characterised by high-pressure, long hours, and a high staff turnover.

Worse still, they have to put up with abuse and condescension from the customers they serve on telephone lines to countries in the northern hemisphere. Yet these call centre jobs are comparatively well paid and highly sought after.

By doing what it can to raise working conditions for middle-class Indian workers, the European unions movement can serve two demanding taskmasters at once - its fragile membership, which does not want its jobs outsourced to India, and its own conscience, which cannot directly betray the cause of international solidarity.

Pulling off that trick will oblige the unions to give up their anti-outsourcing rhetoric. That is, stop trying to scare European firms off outsourcing deals by slagging off Indian workers.

The Nasscom biometric database of workers was the Indian response to an international news storm initiated by Britain's Sun tabloid newspaper, which engineered a leak of British bank details from an Indian call centre last year.

Unions including Amicus shamelessly exploited the opportunity and helped whip the storm up to the point where Nasscom had to do something to protect its business interests. A biometric database seemed like the obvious solution*. Now this could be the single largest barrier to the unionisation of emerging Indian industries.

As for workers in Indian call centres, they have been lucky to land jobs that are considered luxurious, so telling them that their conditions are rubbish may not wash.

Unless their new-found wealth and power gives them the confidence to take on employers, the only way to help them unionise will be to encourage them to see their place in the global economy. That will mean treating them as comrades rather than enemies. ®

* The adoption of bureaucratic processes from the northern hemisphere has always been the clincher for most Nasscom members in deals for outsourcing business. They have signed up to anything they can, from data protection to formal methods of business.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.