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IT services giant Wipro fires 300 for moonlighting

Labor org points out hypocrisy of chairman with multiple directorships sacking workers for similar

Rishad Premji, executive chairman of Indian IT services giant Wipro, revealed on Wednesday that the company fired 300 employees for moonlighting with its competitors.

"The reality is that there are people today working for Wipro and working directly for one of our competitors. We've actually discovered 300 people in the last few months were doing exactly that," said Premji at the 49th All India Management Association convention in New Delhi.

Premji called such activity "a complete violation of integrity in its deepest form," adding that "there's no space for someone to work for Wipro and competitor x, y, and z."

The chairman reportedly confirmed to the Economic Times India on the sidelines of the convention that the 300 people he referred to had their employment terminated.

The anti-moonlighting rhetoric is not new to the former NASSCOM chairperson. Last month he tweeted his views, sparking a debate as to how employees use their off hours in an era when IT skills are in demand and the cost of living is on the rise.

"I've never got so much hate mail as I got for that and I think it was meant more sincerely than people interpreted it," said Premji.

Premji did clarify that by the term "moonlighting" he meant having a second job secretly. However, his message became a little muddled as he declared an employee should be candid with their employer about their after-hours activities, disclosing if they "play in a band at night or work on some project over the weekend."

"The two adult individuals – the organization and the individual – can make a concerted choice about whether that works for them or doesn't work for them as an organization," said Premji, whose LinkedIn bio shows him serving on at least four boards.

Predictably, IT labor rights org Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES) weighed in on the hypocrisy that only the elite are allowed such extracurricular activities.

The issue of moonlighting has become a hot topic among India's top IT companies. Tata Consultancy Services' chief operating officer, N Ganapathy Subramaniam, labeled moonlighting an ethical issue that damages the culture, resulting in short-term gain for long-term pain.

Infosys sent an email to employees last week titled "No Double Lives." The email, viewed by The Register, warned staff that "dual employment is not permitted" and can result in disciplinary action, including possible termination of employment.

"Employees have a contract to work with Infosys for 9 hours only," said NITES president Harpreet Singh Salujah of the email. "What the employees do outside working hours is their prerogative."

Prior to the email, Infosys's former director, Mohandas Pai, mused that moonlighting is caused by junior pay grades staying stagnant for over a decade, compounded by the extra time recovered when employees work from home and no longer have (sometimes lengthy) commutes.

Top players in India's IT services industry have struggled to find new employees and keep existing ones. Quarterly reports in May and April of this year revealed that India's big four outsourcers averaged 22.7 percent attrition in the year prior.

Creative tactics that are often not so employee-friendly have been used to keep staff from jumping ship. Infosys instituted a noncompete clause that bars staff from working for the company's customers for six months after terminating employment, and from working for competitors for one year after employment. Meanwhile, HCL technologies has forced employees to pay back bonuses when they leave. ®

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