Court case puts spotlight on Tata staffing policy

Tata Consultancy Services’ use of intra-company transfers (ICTs) is in the spotlight in a UK court battle

A recent UK High Court case has raised new questions over multinational companies' use of intra-company transfers (ICTs) to bring staff from India to the UK.

In the case, defendant Prashant Sengar had a copy of an employee database for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which he claimed proved that TCS broke immigration rules. TCS denies this and claimed Sengar tried to blackmail the company with the database, which was leaked by a TCS employee.

The judge in the case ordered Shengar to return the database to TCS. 

According to court papers Sengar, who owns and runs a restaurant called Spicy Affair which is used by Tata employees, believes he was discriminated against when seeking employment with TCS at its Leamington Spa office.

Simon Picken QC said: “Mr Sengar's rejection as a result of his interview prompted an email from him to TCS on 26 April 2014. In that email, Mr Sengar informed Tata, ‘That it is my intention to file a claim against TCS for Discrimination, Promissory Estoppel and Breach of Tier 2 ICT visa'."

Sengar also wrote to TCS’s CEO, Natarajan Chandrasekaran. 

In the email he said: “Presently TCS employs many people on Tier 2 ICT. One of the conditions of this visa is that the job must be for skilled migrants and not for the position which can be filled by local and EU residents.

"It is very clear that presently TCS employs many of them under these visas and they are performing jobs which can be filled using local residents."

Sengar wrote another email to the TCS CEO and said a national newspaper was interested in interviewing him about the case.

Intra-company transfers

IT suppliers, including India-based companies, have been accused of abusing intra-company transfers. The system was introduced so large multinationals could bring senior overseas staff to the UK if they had UK operations. 

But today thousands of IT professionals are brought to the UK to work on contracts run by the offshore suppliers. Critics allege this undercuts UK workers.

Most intra-company transfers in the UK involve IT professionals, a large proposition of which come from India. But Prashant alleged that many staff outside IT are being brought to the UK in breach of ICT rules.

According to freedom of information requests from website BackTheMac, which campaigns against abuse of the ICT rules, there are 35,565 ICTs in the UK from India out of a total of about 60,000. IT workers account for a large proportion of the ICT numbers.

In its latest figures, TCS revealed it has 276,195 global staff with 92.3% being Indian.

Just over 21,000 of the company's staff are not Indian. TCS has over 10,000 UK-based staff, while the company employees 4,000 British staff.

"I have been informed by the law firm that they have spoken to some national newspaper and news channel and want me to give them interview and evidence that I hold on Wednesday, 7th May 2014," he said.

"It may sound like I am laying foundation down for a good bargain, but surely that's not my idea!!!”

He said that “on a purely commercial basis, and for swift resolution” he would be “prepared to reach an agreement on the basis that two of my conditions are accepted".

His two conditions were that TCS offer him a managerial position on a £55,000 annual salary and that the company move staff in areas where local residents can be easily employed.

TCS response

TCS's legal team responded, denying Sengar's allegations and said he would not be offered the managerial role.

Sengar replied to TCS's email, claiming he had a list of 1,023 employees presently working in the UK and the US, alongside evidence they had been employed in breach of Tier 2 ICT rules. 

“It is completely your choice how you want to deal with this information but I must stress that some people will be very keen to get this of [sic] me," Sengar said in an email to TCS's CEO. 

QC Picken said that “Mr Sengar explained to me, in his oral submissions, that he was simply meaning to provide Mr Chandrasekaran with the information which would enable him to carry out ‘his investigation’. 

"He explained that his reference to 'playing dirty' was him merely ‘saying that there is an issue – please address it’. He admitted, as he put it however, that ‘at the back of my mind I also know that I have a discrimination claim coming up and I will have to prove that’."

Sengar obtained the information from an unidentified Tata employee.

A TCS spokesperson said: “TCS has obtained an interim injunction in the High Court in London against [the UK citizen]. TCS does not intend to comment further on this ongoing litigation.”

Read more on Offshore IT services