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Employees allege Venugopal Dhoot duped them before filing for Videocon bankruptcy

Over 500 employees in Kolkata-based facilities received no salaries for 22 months in total

Avirat Parekh | Nevin John        Last Updated: July 17, 2019  | 23:49 IST
Employees allege Venugopal Dhoot duped them before filing for Videocon bankruptcy
Venugopal Dhoot

Employees at two factories of KAIL Ltd, a subsidiary of bankrupt Videocon Industries Ltd, alleged that the management controlled by Venugopal Dhoot and family duped them in settling salary dues, even before the company defaulted on its loans.

The two factories had been shut unofficially in early 2017, yet employees at Kolkata-based KAIL were promised salaries. Employees alleged that the Dhoots wanted to avoid their obligation to settle dues, even as they knew the company would go for bankruptcy.

KAIL employees have complained they are yet to receive salaries for a total of 22 months. Their financial situation has only worsened since the company approached NCLT court in Mumbai.

A former employee Gangadhar Chakraborty said that the management did nothing to address the situation about rising employee dues. He even alleged that deaths of six men from the Salt Lake facility and five men from the Taratala facility were due to enormous financial pressure faced by former fellow employees.

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Another ex-employee Suryakumar Sinha said that at a meeting on July 3 last year -- in the presence of promoters and the NCLT-appointed resolution professional Mahindra Khandelwal -- employees were told that they would receive at least 50 per cent of their salaries. Salaries did get credited for the next four months, but stopped abruptly.

The Salt Lake facility was shut in October 2017 while the Taratala facility remained operational only until December 1, 2016. The management did not officially announce the lockout to avoid government scrutiny and impending employee dues settlement. They promised salaries even for the period when employees did not work in order to show the company on papers as a going concern.

Employees approached the Kolkata Labor Court in 2018 and were advised to conduct meeting with the management, which didn't happened.

Gautam Dev, Vice President of the union in the company, spoke about the production output and said that they used to produce colour TVs, washing machines, ACs, refrigerators, microwaves and other appliances until  2013-14. After Dhoot-controlled management took over, it limited the production output to only TVs, citing lack of demand in the market. A frustrated employee said that they are the ones paying the price for the bad financial planning of the management.

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Union members emphasised that all employees are highly efficient and used to handle peak production output of 3000 TVs and 5,000 mobiles every month. They also said that most employees had been recruited and trained by Phillips years ago; KAIL had acquired them later.

Around 500 employees have been waiting in vain for the last two years. They have explored all avenues including having written to labor courts. Their biggest obstacle seems to be fighting the management who has turned blind eyes to the situation. There are no settlement options for bereaved families of employees who died and no gratuity options for those who retired.

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