US management consultancy Accenture has closed its Bangladesh office less than four years after beginning operations in the country, without paying the November salaries and other benefits of its 556 employees.
Accenture had forewarned its Bangladesh staff in a July 18 letter that it would clear their salaries and allowances before closing operations on November 30, without specifying any reason.
However, the company pulled the plug on its Dhaka-based operation a week early, with employees turning up for work as normal only to find they had been locked out.
Over 200 employees have since been protesting in front of the Gulshan offices.
“We found the office locked up when we went there on Monday,” Accenture Employees Union Bangladesh General Secretary Shahin Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune.
“People showed up to work on Monday and started protesting because the management keeps telling everyone they know nothing. If our salary and other benefits are not paid, we will go on a hunger strike.”
Shahin Ahmed said many employees had left their personal belongings including laptops at work and were now unable to retrieve them because the office was under lock and key.
“Now everyone is scared that they will not get their severance pay or any of the payments they were promised. This is why the employees have stationed themselves outside the office, and want their demands met,” he said.
The union boss said Accenture had been involved in negotiations moderated by Joint Secretary of Education Aminul Islam. However, the last meeting on November 13 had ended without a mutual agreement.
“At the last meeting, when we could not come to an agreement, Aminul Islam scheduled another meeting after November 20 and told us that the minister would also join the discussions,” he said.
“Then, on November 15, the management announced that the negotiations had been unfruitful and that they would close down the office on November 20 and start disbursements on November 23.
“The fact that they would close before the disbursements, agitated the employees and they held a meeting on November 19. That night, management sent an email at 11:45pm saying that with immediate effect, the offices would close on November 20,” he said.
ACISL began its Bangladesh operation in 2013 after acquiring a 51% share of private mobile operator Grameenphone’s IT subsidiary, GPIT.
Also Read- Accenture to close down operations in Bangladesh, sacks 556 staffs
Concerns among employees about the viability of the venture grew late last year when rumours began circulating that if the Dhaka office did not see an upturn in fortunes soon, Accenture might pull out of the country.
That led to the employees’ union staging a protest in February this year against what they saw as the management’s inability to grow the Bangladesh business.
Sources said the firm’s relations with Telenor, GP’s parent company, deteriorated due to the pressure from Accenture Employees Union. Telenor started distancing itself from the consulting company, resulting in Accenture losing work.
Accenture Bangladesh’s Communication Department brushed off rumours about its rift with Telenor in an email, saying they had been working with Telenor closely in Asia and Europe, but that some of its services would be transferred to a third party.
As part of the process, some Accenture employees would be allowed to work for the third party and added that the company would “provide proper assistance” to its employees during this interim period.
Accenture Employees Union Bangladesh General Secretary Shahin Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune that the government has not helped, even after repeated calls to the joint secretary who was a government representative during the negotiations.
He was told that the government was looking into it, but has not responded in the last three days.
In a statement, Accenture said: “As planned, certain services currently provided by Accenture Communications Infrastructure Solutions Limited (ACISL) have been transitioned back to the client and some services have been transitioned to a third-party provider.
“ACISL has been in close communications with all employees during this period of transition. ACISL is not only meeting their legal requirements but also offering additional financial support to assist employees.”
Sources in the IT sector said one of the companies preparing to enter Bangladesh’s market is Wipro, an Indian company whose work is similar to that of Accenture.