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Covid: ‘If IT staffer doesn’t recover in 2 weeks…’

‘… Companies are threatening to terminate them or putting them on unpaid leave.’

All industries are going through tough times with lockdowns in various parts of the country.

The IT industry was doing better than most as their employees could work from home, and the companies returned healthy FY21 figures.

However, the Covid second wave has been more lethal and widespread, and the extended lockdowns that have gone on now for more than a year has resulted in employee fatigue and even mental stress.

“We are getting complaints from across the country,” A J Vinod, below, general secretary, Forum of IT employees in India, tells A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com.

What are IT companies doing to keep their employees safe during the pandemic?

The employees are working from home. Many families are affected.

Companies are helping their employees by giving them leave; they are also getting them vaccinated.

Employees want more help as families are also affected. They should give enough holidays. They should streamline the working hours.

Vaccination should be provided to the employee and their families as it is not freely available now.

What are IT companies doing to help their employees who have tested positive for COVID-19?

They are giving two weeks holiday. They have medical cover. But the company should help the families also.

If they don’t recover in two weeks, companies are threatening to terminate them or putting them on unpaid leave.

You know there is a severe shortage of hospital beds, medicines and vaccines. How are companies helping their staff in this situation?

One or two companies are arranging for quarantine in the company premises.

Some companies are even providing treatment inside their premises.

Do you know any company that has started A facility to treat its employees?

There are two or three companies that are doing this. I don’t want to name them.

Have companies started recruiting to help with vacancies due to the shortage of workers in the pandemic?

Very few companies are recruiting to service their clients. Once the situation improves, they will increase recruitment.

Have companies made arrangements to get their employees tested?

In the first wave, they did that. Now they are not doing it as testing facilities are easily available now. People need support only when they are infected.

Have companies made arrangements to get their employees vaccinated? 

Very few companies are doing this. They are also getting the families of the employees vaccinated.

Are IT companies losing clients because of the pandemic?

That has not happened as international clients understand the situation.

Do you know if any companies have shifted their call centres to other countries because of the pandemic?

So far I have not heard about this happening. If 2 or 3 people are affected, the rest of the team has made up.

How are companies managing because these disruptions must have added to cost?

Money flow is not there now, but it is not adding to cost. These disruptions can be managed.

What problems is your Forum facing because of the pandemic?

We are not able to meet the affected employees in person.

Secondly, we cannot approach the government labour department in person.

We don’t have any common platform to resolve the issues with the company.

We are providing online support which is not effective.

We are receiving more complaints during the pandemic. We are getting complaints from across the country.

The employees are working from their home towns.

If they are terminated, their voices will not be heard, any issues that they are facing cannot be heard now. These are the problems for the employees and the Forum.

What kind of issues are your members bringing to you and how are you handling them?

When our members come to us with their grievances, we are giving online complaints.

We also inform the media so that people and the government are aware of the issues.

What do you think are the prospects of IT employees in the long run?

Working hours should be streamlined. Now they are working longer hours from home.

If they have problems they have not been able to get justice immediately.

We have to stop illegal terminations and mass layoffs.

How has the Covid second wave impacted the IT industry?

It is affecting our day to day activities. The scenario is bad now and it can only improve with complete vaccination and the virus spread is arrested.

How has it affected IT workers?

Many people have tested positive. They cannot even work for eight hours after they recover, but they are being made to work for 12 hours and more.

What needs to be done to improve their condition?

The working hours should be streamlined.

Are companies doing enough to mitigate their condition?

Affected employees should get an extra medical allowance to recover fully. It will involve a little more cost, but will benefit the company eventually.

This is a pandemic situation. No company has a plan for the pandemic.

They should make a plan, where employees’ opinion is also considered. They should involve employees’ representatives in their discussion.

How do you think the industry will change because of Covid?

It will give more opportunities after the virus spread is completely arrested.

All the other industries need the help of the IT sector to resume work as early as possible. So the IT industry will benefit.

Are the companies and the government working together to overcome this situation?

Right now the government is asking the companies to help the community with their CSR funds.

They are also expecting the companies to help with infrastructure to treat the people.

But the companies are not living up to the government’s expectations.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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