Job cuts hit ICT industry

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 21 Aug 2017, 23:31:56 | Updated : 22 Aug 2017, 09:07:08
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Job cuts hit ICT industry

Nashir Uddin
Random job cuts in recent months at a number of renowned ICT companies like Ericsson, Accenture and Grameenphone, often in the name of Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), have prompted a sort of uncertainty in an otherwise growing tech industry of Bangladesh.

In some cases, the terminated skilled employees of the companies in question were seen agitating and observing work abstention while in other cases, the sacked engineers and staff members were seen going to the labour court to press home their demands.

On Monday, some 50-60 employees of LM Ericsson Bangladesh Limited laid siege to their Gulshan office in Dhaka keeping their high officials confined and virtually agitated all day long seeking their job back or issues resolved.

When asked, Luthfor Rahman, Secretary of Ericsson Employees' Union, said these employees were served a termination notice all in a sudden on Thursday last.

The employees started agitation since 10:00am on the day to press home their legitimate demands and also to raise voice against rampant violation of labour law by the company, he added.

Asked about the issue, Ericsson's acting Country Unit Head Abdus Salam said that he was not designated to talk about the issue.

Later, Sonia Aplin, Head of Marketing & Communications of Ericsson (South East Asia, Oceania & India) sent an emailed statement to The Financial Express regarding the company's operational changes in Bangladesh.

She said, "Ericsson, as previously announced, has made a number of operational changes to our organisation in Bangladesh, including headcount reductions, based on business needs and as part of our continuous efforts to increase efficiency."

She also said, "All changes have been made and communicated to our impacted employees in strict compliance with local regulations and company policies, and in keeping with our core values of professionalism and respect."

Industry insiders and protesting employees said around 200 permanent and temporary employees were earlier terminated from the company's Product Services and the Operations & Development Departments from September 2016 to March 2017.

In total, the Swedish telecom equipment manufacturer Ericsson terminated 509 staff members since April 19, 2016. On August 17, 60 more employees were fired, following which they started movement seeking lay-off package and voluntary separation scheme (VSR), they said.

Only a few weeks earlier, Accenture Communications Infrastructure Solutions Limited (ACISL), a global management consulting and professional services company, terminated all 556 members of its local staff.

The Accenture move jolted the country's thriving outsourcing sector, which has an ambitious target of earning $1 billion annually in BPO services exports by the year 2021.

The Ireland-based company entered Bangladesh in 2013 by acquiring 51 per cent of shares in the GPIT, a subsidiary of the largest local mobile phone operator Grameenphone (GP) Limited.

Even in July this year, ICT industry sources said, a total of 267 employees of GP went on Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS).

Asked about the widespread job cuts, State Minister for IT Junaid Ahmed Palak said, "It will not have any significant impact on our fast-growing information and communication technology (ICT) sector as a whole."

"We have a number of schemes, arrangements and facilitations on offer for the technology investors and entrepreneurs from home and abroad, following which Bangladesh has already scripted a notable success story in this particular field," he said.

The local IT industry, according to him, is growing at a pace of 30 per cent year-on-year.

As part of the government machinery, he said that his ministry cannot interfere in the functioning or proceedings of any private sector company.

"I think, those companies are run by certain rules and regulations formulated by the concerned authorities. And the government, having a concerned ministry and directorate in this regard, is always there to help them run smoothly."

Bangladesh's IT sector has reached a new height in recent years and it will continue to march forward in the days to come, he said.

"We even hope to have some really good news and groundbreaking development regarding the country's growing ICT sector during the Prime Minister's forthcoming USA visit."

    nashir@gmail.com
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