Image Source : PTI
BENGALURU: Cognizant is laying off employees across a number of its locations in India. The exact numbers are not clear, but IT employee unions allege it is at least several hundreds.
Vinod AJ, general secretary of the All India Forum for IT Employees (AIFITE), said Cognizant employees across Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Kochi and Kolkata have been affected.
FITE said in a communication to the labour department and other government officials that some 18,000 employees are on the bench (those without projects), and many of them could be affected.
Suraj Nidiyanga, secretary of the Karnataka State IT/ITES Employees Union (KITU), said they have got 20 complaints from Cognizant employees in Bengaluru, and 20 more have complained to their Tamil Nadu union. “Cognizant is indulging in large-scale retrenchment of people on its benches,” he said.
In October last year, CEO Brian Humphries had announced that the company would be parting with some 13,000 employees in the coming months, including about 6,000 from the content moderation business that Cognizant does for Facebook. He had said they would try to reskill some 5,000 of these employees and redeploy them in other areas.
The ongoing layoffs could be a part of that announcement. Cognizant globally has over 2.9 lakh employees, of which about 70% are in India.
When contacted, a Cognizant spokesperson said that “recent third party allegations regarding a specific number of job actions are inaccurate, not based on facts, and were not announced by Cognizant.”
The spokesperson added: “…Cognizant continues to hire at all levels in India and globally. Likewise, the company continues to invest heavily in upskilling and reskilling its employees at scale in newer digital technologies, including cloud, analytics, digital engineering and IoT, where the company is seeing above industry-average growth.”
Cognizant was for years the fastest growing among the big India-heritage IT services companies, but the past 2-3 years has seen growth slumping. Humphries, who came in last year from Vodafone, has been undertaking a major restructuring, including some radical cost cuts.
Several employees that TOI spoke to on condition of anonymity said they had been given a MS (meets some expectation) rating – they said an unusually high number of employees received the MS rating this year. Employees who get this rating are put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) for up to 45 days. Emails sent by the company to some of these employees showed that they failed to meet the PIP goals. “My weekly performance review was satisfactory, but at the end of my review, my performance was dubbed as unsatisfactory,” said an affected employee. These are the employees being asked to go.
Employees are being offered severance packages of 12 to 21 weeks’ pay (depending on years of experience) and one week’s pay for every year of service.
Many were also affected due to bench-related actions. Last year, the Nasdaq-listed IT services firm shrunk the bench time from 60 days to 35 days for those employees who aren’t on billable projects. After 35 days, they could be asked to leave.
Employees on the bench are moved to associate deployable pool and those whose exceed the 35-day threshold are warned to get themselves placed in a project. Employees are sent a show cause and asked to present before a personal hearing officer to explain the reasons for not finding a suitable job to justify their “non-contribution of work.” An affected employee on the bench said, “The project managers and directors don’t honour a service order raised to deploy benched employees to work on another ongoing projects. “They don’t approve the service order. So, we are stuck without a project even though some of us have similar skill sets,” he said.