In a double whammy, even experienced software professionals, sacked as a result of 'involuntary attrition', face discrimination in the overcrowded IT industry. The tag of an 'under-performer', is increasing the risk of depression, destitution and the lack of prospects in the job market. Sacked individuals say that they find it traumatic when neither IT organisations nor job consultants lend them an ear.

When a newly unemployed IT engineer wanted to test the job market, he sought the services of a job consultancy. However, his reception was less-than-satisfactory, which he terms as being 'literally mocked at'. He says, it adds insult to injury when you lose your livelihood and also have your credentials questioned.

Protest Calls

The stigma is so severe that no more than a single former Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) employee, turned up for the protest meeting organised by IT/ITeS Employees Centre (ITEC - an employee welfare forum), in front of the Town Hall in Bangalore.

People fear that being associated with a protest group against the company/industry would affect their future prospects in the job market. The industry remains jittery over any attempts to unionise or to see members group together for collective bargaining. The effect was in full view, when even the few protesters who attended, did so, only by camouflaging their identities by wearing a mask of TCS CEO and MD N Chandrasekaran.

TCS CEO N.Chandrasekaran
N Chandrasekaran, a TCS-liferReuters

An ITEC member put the low participation down to the fear psychosis, adding that the corporate sector is reputed for being ultra sensitive to what it perceives as a protest against it or people trying to question the system.

Experienced Under-Performers

"I got to know about the protest through Forum for IT Employees (FITE). I feel really bad about TCS because what they are doing is totally unethical as they are forcing employees to resign without giving justifiable answers," said Manoj Kumar, the lone former TCS staffer who attended the protest meeting.

Kumar spent 12 years with TCS rising to the position of Assistant Consultant. He claimed to have joined the organisation, which is patronized especially for its 'job security'. He adds that the events in the past few days have been baffling, especially to have been asked to leave when he has been working on a project and not, when he was on the 'bench,' read Bangalore Mirror.

Experienced personnel with 12-15 years have been labelled as an 'under-performer,' a term that strikes indignation among those affected. They worry not about their immediate livelihood, but about the adverse impact the layoff process brings with it. They question the rational of the move, asking how the management had been able to retain them for years, if it was not happy with their performance.

TCS Version

TCS, part of the admired Tata Group, is India's largest listed employer, with more than 313,000 people on its roles. It confirmed that it was letting go of people who have not been able to perform at the levels expected, and insisted that the move was limited to about 1% of its employee strength, adding that it was an annual process.

TCS continues to remain sensitive to employee needs, said its Chandrasekaran, a career-lifer, who joined the organisation in 1987 and has been at the helm since 2009.

The competitive nature of the industry requires companies to raise performance delivered and to sharpen leadership at the middle level management roles, which is where some of the affected employees fall.

Chandrasekaran wondered if there was a failure of communication. Questions circle around whether the IT major allowed itself to refrain from commenting on speculation, for a little too longer.

Speculation and Trade Unions

What has made the situation worse was the flagrant disregard by many sections of the society in trying to claim unheard of statistics and to colour the issue with a conspiratorial tone. Social media posts claimed that TCS is to cut about 25,000 to 30,000 jobs, with no reasoning at all.

Trade unions came to the forefront of the current turmoil, issuing calls for the sector to unionise. One of the key reasons for the sector to have succeeded lies at its choice to reject trade unionism, which has not always been successful either for the employees themselves, or for the employers, in other industries and sectors. Their call to unionise has gone unheeded.

The Individual

The speculations around the TCS move has wounded the employees' morale more than the act itself. Vivek, a TCS employee of three years, said that he has heard from his sources that companies hiring IT professionals in Kochi and Hyderabad asked former TCS employees to leave, without even meeting them for an interview. The alleged reason being that they are people laid off by TCS, citing 'under-performance'.

Vivek added that he was served a chance to exit honourably from the organisation through a resignation or risk termination; he believed that termination would ruin his prospects and decided to hand in his resignation immediately. However, the current circumstances paint any former employee of TCS as an 'under-performer', without any reason or basis.

Lawsuit Recourse

ITEC plans to move the court and has sought assistance from the local state government, while extending calls to sacked employees to join the lawsuit and to fight in unity.

TCS has planned to go ahead with recruitment plans for 2015, under which it would see 55,000 IT professionals joining the nation's largest private employer.

It is necessary to understand that an individual experiences severe stress if he or she is left without a meaningful role, all of a sudden. Also, if it is an annual process undertaken by the industry as a whole, why TCS alone has been targeted needs to be investigated.

Investigations as to where the rumours originated, needs to be investigated by the government and industry authorities, and a strict crackdown would ensure that the lives of people are not held ransom by few people who may nurse a grudge against their former employers.

Until then, employees and employers would be huddling with their attorneys to find a solution that sets a respectable benchmark on how the IT industry treats its employees, and how the employees upgrade themselves to remain competitive.