Playing in a band on the weekend is not the same as secretly working for competitors, Wipro CEO Rishad Premji stressed this week, as the soap-to-tech business group announced the firing of 300 employees for “moonlighting.” Other computer titans, including IBM, which has a significant presence in India, and the homegrown Infosys, have joined the chorus in calling moonlighting “an unethical behavior.”.
It’s just cooking, plain and simple. ” This is how Mr. Premji put it. According to The Times of India, he seems unfazed by the hate mail he has received in response to his tweet. In a recent statement, his company said, “Certain individuals discovered to be functioning in circumstances that are in direct contrast with Wipro’s interests have been sacked.” But this integrity argument is about more than just what management wants. A gang of IT employees from several firms is now preparing to strike back.
“Moonlighting” is when you work a job in addition to your regular one. Because most “regular” employment is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the other job is usually at night, hence the “moon” connection. While people with low wages would normally do it for extra money—as a means of sustenance—remote working and projects across time zones have now made it possible for high-paid techies to do it as well.
Swiggy, a food delivery company, announced last month that it had implemented an “industry-first” moonlighting policy, under which employees can take on external initiatives “depending on corporate permission.”
“Whether it’s volunteering with an NGO, working as a dancing instructor, or creating content for social media, Swiggy believes that working on such initiatives outside of one’s full-time job can greatly contribute to an individual’s professional and personal development.” It stated that the work might be done for free or for a fee. However, the proposal has not been well received by the older majors.
Employees can have chats about playing in a band or working on a project over the weekend, according to Wipro’s Rishad Premji, but he wants to distinguish such scenarios from secretly working for competitors. “There is no room for someone to work for both Wipro and competitor XYZ, and the other businesses would feel the same way if they discovered the same situation.”.
Infosys sent out a scathing email earlier this month headlined “No two-timing—no moonlighting! “they say to their staff. It used clauses from the offer letter to make its point. Employees are largely silent as they sign agreements with clauses against “conflict of interest,” which the company might define in a variety of ways.
Because company-specific unions are usually non-existent, these employees lack bargaining power as well. But social media is buzzing with a simple assertion: what one does outside of contracted “work hours” is none of anyone’s business. Mohandas Pai, a former Infosys director, believes it’s not as simple as that.
“Employment is a contract between me and an employer in which I am paid for working for them for a certain number of hours per day.” “What I do after that time is my freedom; I can do whatever I want,” he has said, adding that employees must follow the terms of the contracts they sign with the companies and that doing otherwise is “illegal and unethical” “if they do so on the property of their employers.”.
The Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES), a group of employees, has called Wipro’s move immoral. According to NITES chief Harpreet Singh Saluja, terms in offer letters and employment contracts should be legally scrutinized. “It is disheartening to see that Wipro has sacked over 300 employees in the guise of moonlighting. Mr. Saluja stated that arbitrary termination of employees is immoral and illegal, and NITES would go to every length to deliver justice to those who have been wronged.
There is at least one IT major who is okay with moonlighting, though only in theory. CP Gurnani, CEO of Tech Mahindra, stated at a recent event: “If someone meets the efficiency and productivity standards and wants to make some extra money, I have no objections. I’d like to make it policy. So, if you want to do it, go ahead, but be honest about it. “
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