Saturday, November 12, 2005

Unions in BPO?

So, the BPOs are set to be unionized. If our left parties have their way that is. What is the function of a union? It is to safeguard workers rights. Unions are the product of the industrial revolution when "evil capitalists exploited poor workers". Is it the same today? I leave you to guess. Heres my take on this subject.

Unions reduce productivity. There may be exceptions, but as a rule unions reduce producvitity. In an auto company I briefly worked for, unions had a target of producing x vehicles per shift when they could have easily produced 5x vehicles. But there was an agreement in force because of which they had a target of x vehicles. They came in on time, made the x vehicles in no time and duly took a nap till the shift ended. (Also Bajajs story in their new Chakan plant is only too well known to be commented upon.) Imagine if BPO associates stopped taking beyond 10 calls per person per day. There are stories of good unions, but they are mostly unions which are run by the workers, without any political affiliation. The moment there is a political affiliation, the business loses its edge, one way or other.

Unions breed corruption. There are a few ring leaders who can be bought at the right price (visit any movie of the 70s with the angry young man and you will know what I mean). Now the BPOs are as egalitarian as they can get. You need not speak a certain language or be born in a certain place to hold your job. Your performance is the only criteria for your entry into the job, holding your position, career growth and exit.

And there can be many other reasons on why unions are damaging to the growth of industry. Stories of industries which died out or were driven out due to unionism abound, much more than stories of "evil empires" built on the "blood" of workers.

Truth is, unions are passe. Collective bargaining, the whole idea behind unions is mostly collective blackmailing. Today with job mobility and international companies by the dozen, employees are free to choose and it is the employer who loses if his employees are not a satisfied lot. If the company policy is "not good", word spreads around very very fast and attrition is there for everybody to see. Salaries are low or the work environment doesnt measure up, the grapevine has it all. In the real world when workers were illiterate and ignorant of their rights a union would ideally work toward safeguarding workers rights (rights on the job, safety) and improving the lot of the workers. The number of unions which have had a positive effect can be counted on the fingers. Today, BPO associates are educated, nay, well qualified, amazingly networked and pretty sharp. They are fully aware of their rights (and responsibilities). They perform and keep their job. Else they can be fired. Companies pay them well and keep them happy. Else the company loses out. Where does one need a union here?


Docs Dope said...

interesting read

Nivedita said...

This posting is so baseless, that it is difficult to comment. I have done a documentary on Call Centers and i am strongly of the opinion that if Call Center Workers do not have an union, then the numerous problems sorrounding the industry will never be resolved. No doubt the author of the posting has worked in an managerial position and thus the opinions about trade unions is biased. Just remember that if people all over the world are benefitting from the eight hour work rule... it is only and only because of the Political trade unions. If presently the Indian Government is not opening all the industries to MNC's and is not repeating the same mistakes of latin American countries in the past, it is only because of the political left.

The posting says that all call center workers are educated. We have to realise that all our engineers and MBA's are in BPO's only because of the present unemployment levels in the country. Typically the BPO career ends by the time they enjoy their 35th birthday. Then neighter their education, nor thier BPO experience is of any use in trying to make a new career. So think about it...its not only the education which goes down the drain but also their health which is afected badly, as the BPO mangemnts are no where concerned about the same. It all looks Rosy and attractive with good salaries but get deep in to it, deeper only to understatnd the surrounding and then refelect !