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Lockdown 4.0: Labour Ministry receives up to 14,000 complaints of job losses, pay cuts

Nirbhay Kumar     May 22, 2020

Key Highlights

  • 20 control rooms have received a total of 13,500-14,000 complaints of non-payment of wages and retrenchment
  • Control room officers have been using moral persuasion to ensure employers pay workers' pending wages
  • Central Labour Commissioner Rajan Verma says 80-90% cases have been resolved in railways, ports, telecom sectors
  • Massive job losses seen during lockdown period across various sectors

With migrant workers heading home, complaints against employers for non-payment of wages and termination have come down but Labour Ministry will continue to operate its 20 control rooms to take up wage and retrenchment related issues of workers.

"With workers going back to their home, the complaints regarding non-payment of wages or termination have come down. We are making all efforts to ensure that old cases pertaining to wages and retrenchment are amicably resolved," Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) Rajan Verma told BusinessToday.In.

The 20 control rooms set up under the direction of Labour Ministry have received a total of 13,500-14,000 complaints of non-payment of wages and retrenchment during the ongoing lockdown. Most cases have been reported from Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

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Verma said that control room officers have been persuading employers to pay workers' pending wages. He said that in the central sphere, comprising railways, ports and telecom sectors, as much as 80-90% cases have been resolved.

Days after the announcement of nationwide lockdown from March 25, the Central Labour Commissioner had requested all regional heads and field officers to rigorously take up the issue with all concerned public and private sector employers in case distress calls were received from workers.

The advisory had been issued following complaints from workers of non-payment or part-payment of wages and retrenchment.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed industry and businesses to not cut salaries of employees or retrench them, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order asking local authorities to ensure firms and factories paid full wages to their workers during lockdown period.

"All the employers, be it in the industry or in the shops and commercial establishments, shall make payment of wages of their workers at their work places on the due date without any deduction for the period their establishments are under closure during the lockdown," Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote in the March 29 order issued under Section 10 (2) (I) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

While many employers sought payroll support from the government for wage payments, some of them approached Supreme Court challenging the legality of the March 28 MHA order. Hearing the plea, the SC last week stayed the MHA order and directed the government to not take any coercive action against employers for non-payment of wages during lockdown period.

In a curious case, the MHA while detailing guidelines for Lockdown 4.0 nullified its wage payment order.

"Save as otherwise provided in the guidelines annexed to this order, all order issued by the NEC (National Executive Committee chaired by Home Secretary) under Section 10(2)(I) of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, shall cease to have effect from 18.05.2020," the Home Ministry said.

While there has been massive retrenchment across sectors, a large number of workers have complained of part-payment or non-payment of wages. This is evident from the unprecedented migrant workers crisis.

Sources in micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector say there have been massive lay-off besides many factory-owners paying only 50% or even less salaries during the lockdown period.

Mahesh Vyas, Managing Director and CEO of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt Ltd (CMIE) has estimated job losses in April at 12.2 crore.

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