Workers Snippets for November 2021

Liability on the Principal Employer to Pay Accident Compensation

Reiterating the law set down in Shri Krishnan v. Jasoda Devi & Ors., the High Court of Delhi stated that as per Section 12 of the Employees Compensation Act, the liability of payment of compensation to a deceased workman lies with the principal employer as the said Section is for the benefit of the employee who does not have to be put under technical and practical difficulties to decipher his correct employer – whether a sub-contractor, contractor or the principal employer. Therefore, a pragmatic method has been devised to fix the liability on the principal employer so as to prove speedy relief to the employee to receive compensation in case of workplace accident. The principal employer has the right to indemnify themselves from the contractor who may have employed the worker. However, the principal employer and the contractor have rights and liabilities that are stated in the agreement between them, and such relationship cannot affect the right of the worker or the dependants of the worker to avail compensation from the principal employer or the contractor, at the option of the affected workman.

M/s Five S Manpower Services Pvt. Ltd vs. Commissioner, Under Employees Compensation Act, 1923 & Ors. [2021 LLR 9 (Del. HC)]

Employee’s Gratuity Cannot be Attached

In a writ appeal being heard by the Allahabad High Court in regard to the gratuity being withheld of a bank employee as he was a guarantor to cash credit given to a company and the company was declared as a non-performing asset, the Court upheld that as per Section 60 (1) (g) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and also Section 13 of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, under no eventuality can the gratuity of a workman be attached to recover dues from him. Even if a decree is granted by a Court or an order is passed, or even in case of any dues, default or liability of any nature, attaching gratuity of a workman is not justified. Thus, the Act grants immunity to the employee and restrains the employer from withholding gratuity to satisfy liability arising due to a non-performing asset.


Bhudev Trivedi vs. State of U.P. and Others [2021 LLR 473 (All. HC)]

Fixed Term Work for Long Periods is Unfair Labour Practice

The High Court of Gujarat found that a workman employed as a driver was being given fixed-term work of 29 days a month for a period of 2 years, and when the was terminated from employment, the same came to be challenged by the workman by stating that he was retrenched from work without following the provisions of Section 25F of the Industrial Disputes Act. The High Court observed that the workman was given continuous work for 240 days and the employer followed unfair labour practices by employing the worker for 29 days at a time as per Clause 10 of Schedule V. The Court also observed that another workman who was junior to the workman-petitioner was retained in service, whereas the workman was terminated from service. Therefore, the employer had breached the mandatory provision in regard to retrenchment as laid down in the ID Act, which rendered the workman entitled to get requisite relief.

Mohammad Rafique Mohammad Yasin Shaikh & Anr. vs. Gujarat Jal Sampati Vikas Nigam Ltd. & 1 Ors. [2021 LLR 491 (Guj. HC)]

Beauticians of Platform-Economy Protest

Several women workers who work as ‘expert beauticians’ on the ‘Urban Company’ app went on protest in front of the company’s office in Gurugram, against the extreme exploitation they face at the hands of the company.

These beauticians, who were predominantly women, were earlier independently functioning with a regular clientele they achieved through word of mouth. However, due to the economy making a radical shift into the platform economy, these beauticians were forced to adapt to these changes and enrolled themselves on the app to earn a living.

The workers stated that the company charges commission as high as 30-35%, which results in a meagre income. Several videos and social media posts quoted the women workers stating that this was not the case when they had initially joined the company when they would earn about Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 60,000 a month. However, due to the high rate of commission being levied against them, their monthly incomes drastically reduced to Rs. 20,000 a month. The workers also accused the Urban Company of threatening the workers of blocking their IDs or decreasing their ratings, which would directly impact their livelihood.

The pathetic situation of the gig-workers is highlighted time and again by the workers themselves. However, very little has been done to ensure job security, wage security, social security, protection against exploitation, safe working conditions, etc.

Assam HPC Workers’ Death Toll Increases to 85

When the death toll of workers who were employed with Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd., Assam reached 85, the Assam Government has finally woken up to the distress of these workers. These workers, numbering around 1,100, of the closed paper mills of Cachar and Nagaon are in extreme financial distress since the time of closure in 2015 and 2017, respectively. These 85 workers succumbed to starvation or due to lack of medical treatment. Many of these workers have suffered from kidney and liver related diseases. Joint Action Committee of Recognised Unions (JACRU), a joint action forum consisting of workers across the two mills, stated that workers have not been paid their due wages for the past 55 months and accused the authorities of general apathy towards the plight of these workers.

However, the Assam Government has now come forward to provide a relief package to all employees, which will be quantified after taking into consideration their provident fund, gratuity, pension and other dues that the workers entitled to receive.

Ford Workers Protest Against Planned Closure of Plant

Workers employed in Ford Motor Co., Sanand, Gujarat, went on a protest in late September 2021, against the plausible closure of the plant which has an engine-making facility slated to be implemented by this year end. There are about 1,200 workers employed at the plant, who demanded that the workers be provided with other jobs. This comes in the wake of Ford Motors withdrawing manufacturing process from India, which cited reasons to pare losses they have sustained internationally.

Several automobile companies have been exiting India which is resulting in several of their plants being closed down. This is a double-assault against the workers, who are going to be severely impacted by the changing labour laws and also by being rendered unemployed.