Union Formation in Indian Call Centres/Bpo – the Attitudes and Experiences of Unites Members

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Union Formation in Indian Call Centres/BPO – The Attitudes and Experiences of UNITES Members

Professor Phil Taylor and Dr. Dora Scholarios Department of Human Resource Management Strathclyde Business School Glasgow, United Kingdom

Professor Ernesto Noronha and Dr. Premilla d’Cruz Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, India

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Contents
1. 1.1 1.2 2. 2.1 2.2 3. 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 4. 5. 5.1 5.2 5.3 6. 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 6.10 6.11 7. Introduction Employer Opposition to Trade Unions in Indian BPO The Formation of UNITES Aims and Objectives of the Report Principal Aims Specific Objectives The Indian BPO Industry – Background and Context The Globalisation of Business Services India’s Pre-eminence as BPO Destination A Brief History of the Indian BPO Industry The BPO Market Today The BPO Workforce and Conditions of Work Sources and Methods Questionnaire Design Questionnaire Distribution Employee Interviews Research Findings Profile of Respondents The Process of Recruitment Reasons for Joining UNITES Work Conditions Prompting Colleagues to Join UNITES Degree of Pressure Felt on a Normal Working Day Aspects of Work Which Contribute to Pressure Work/non-work Relationship and Work-Life Balance Perceptions of Management Effectiveness Attitudes to Management in General HR as Substitute for Independent Employee Representation Perceived Obstacles to Joining UNITES Conclusions Page 3 3 4 7 7 9 9 9 10 11 16 19 19 19 19 21 21 22 24 28 31 31 34 36 38 39 41 46

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Union Formation in Indian Call Centres/BPO: The Attitudes and Experiences of UNITES Members 1. Introduction

The point of departure for this report, and the research project from which it derives, is the question of trade unionism in Indian BPO (Business Process Outsourcing). We set the scene, firstly, by outlining both the employers’ and industry opposition to the emergence of trade unionism in Indian BPO and, secondly, by summarising the development of UNITES Pro (the Union of Information Technology Enabled Services Professionals) as an organisation seeking to represent the interests of the nascent BPO workforce. 1.1 Employer Opposition to Trade Unions in Indian BPO The spectacular growth of the Indian call centre/BPO industry has thrust to the fore issues of working conditions and employee rights. In particular, the question of whether an independent organisation is required to represent employees in Indian BPO has emerged as an important matter for debate. The position of Nasscom (National Association of Software and Service Companies), the employers’ organisation for the ITES-BPO (Information Technology Enabled Services-Business Process Outsourcing) industry, has been consistent, dismissing trade unions as unnecessary in the Indian context on grounds summarised by its President, Kiran Karnik. In the BPO industry the grievances of the workers are addressed promptly and the wages are good so there is no need for unions… (http://www.rediff.com/money/2005/oct/17bpo.htm). According to this widely-accepted narrative, the BPO industry is portrayed as providing unparalleled career opportunities and generous pay and rewards packages for the young graduates who overwhelmingly make up its workforce. On the rare occasions that employee dissatisfactions or grievances do arise, they can be resolved easily and timeously by management within existing company structures and arrangements. Commentators have highlighted how the implementation of sophisticated human resource management policies and practices has created a ‘productively docile’ workforce (Ramesh, 2004a). From the perspective of employees, human resource departments are held to act as a ‘substitute’ for the development of forms of collective organisation and representation. These are what have been termed the ‘inclusivist’ strategies of employers (d’Cruz and Noronha, 2006; Noronha and d’Cruz, 2006), by which concerted efforts have succeeded in capturing employees’ ‘hearts and minds’ and capitalising...
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