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Plea In Supreme Court Seeking Subsidised Wages Of Workers As Done By Other Countries

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A petition has been filed in Supreme Court by a Rajasthan based Company seeking quashing of Government notifications which compels the employers to pay full wages to workers during lockdown and seeking subsidy on wages from Government @ 70-80% on the similar lines as done by Australia and Canada.

The advisory dated 20th March issued by Ministry of Labour and Employment and 29th March order of Ministry of Home Affairs is being challenged by the petitioner being violative of Articles 14 and 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India by Teknomin Construction Limited represented by Jeetendra Gupta.

The order issued by the Ministry of home affairs says that all the “employers, in industry or shops and commercial establishments shall make payment of wages of workers at their workplaces, on due date without any deduction for period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown.” It is also added that States/UT’s should take necessary action against violation of the order.

The Petitioners said that Government should relieve the companies from paying 70 % of salary of each worker during lockdown. It was also added that Government has to take up paying 70 % from funds collected by Employees State Insurance Corporation(ESIC) or PM Cares Fund or through any such scheme.

Petitioners are engaged as work contractors for mine development and production mines for companies like M/s Hindustan Zinc Limited.

The plea also states that Petitioner had engaged 1704 workers for execution of work contracts for four mine locations in the state of Rajasthan and all these work contracts were stopped due to Covid-19 Lockdown.

Plea also highlights hardships faced to continue operations. In accordance with exemption categories notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs time to time, Hindustan Zinc Limited applied to District Administration for requisite permission which were received between March 30 to April 19 for all four mining sites.

Petitioner also relied on Bombay High Court order that allowed employers to deduct wages of absentee employees in areas where restrictions are relaxed.

The plea stresses on need of striking down two notifications as ultra vires the Constitution by stating that “impugned notifications do not differentiate between the workers who report to work and workers who refuse to work, when it comes to entitlement for wages for lockdown period, thereby being contrary to principles of Equal Work, Equal Pay.”

The plea also points out, “On one hand, Petitioner is not getting desired number of employees for work to fulfill their contractual obligations in continuing mining operations and on the other hand, the Petitioner is being compelled under impugned notification to pay for the wages to workers for entire lockdown period.”

Petitioner has questioned whether the Government can arbitrarily differentiate against construction workers and workers in other industry for utilization of welfare funds to compensate workers for lockdown period and whether Government can be permitted to cause financial hardship to industrial establishments such as petitioners by compelling them to pay wages without getting any work done from employees during lockdown.

-India Legal Bureau

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