Thursday, February 25, 2010

Proletarianization praxis

IT workers: de-skilled, de-professionalised, subject to intensifying supervision and lower wages:

The image of work in the IT industry is dominated by the clever nerd lacking social skills and the highly paid consultant.

Yet recent months have seen Unite members in Fujitsu staging the first ever national strikes in IT, over jobs, pay and pensions. A group of Unite members in Hewlett-Packard (HP) have won union recognition and, after a one-day strike, a 2.5 percent pay rise. PCS members in HP also struck over pay and jobs. Union organisation has now increased across IT.

Many organisations now outsource IT work. Mergers mean services are dominated by a few multinationals, like BT, HP, Capita, IBM, Fujitsu, Cap Gemini, Accenture, CSC, Atos Origin and Steria.

As the industry has matured there are fewer products and services built specifically by one company or for just one customer. Competition is based more on price than functionality. Likewise, the job skills in the industry are increasingly standardised. Many IT workers are periodically transferred between companies as part of outsourcing contracts - staff are bought and sold like equipment and orders.

Greater price competition leads to relentless cost-cutting drives and working staff harder for less pay and benefits. Standardisation of skills is reducing workers' ability to resist this individually. As jobs become less individual, less creative, less rewarding and increasingly routine, supervision intensifies. Clocking in and out of work was scrapped decades ago, but many now have to complete "timesheets" to account for what they've been doing. Failure to submit timesheets leads to disciplinary action. Many mobile engineers have tracking devices fitted in their cars and call centre staff are often monitored by the second. Pressure on productivity and cost often leads to bullying...