SUPREME COURT DISMISSES SLP OF LOKMAT GROUP OF NEWSPAPERS

Inspiring story of non journalist employee who succeeds finally after a long battle of 17 years… Gets benefit of regularization and permanency as Teleprinter Operator, Planner with retrospective effect… Held entitled to all the benefits of Palekar, Bachawat Awards…

Mahesh Sakure, with M.Com. degree, has been working with Lokmat Group of Newspapers at Bhandara, near Nagpur, since 1.10.1996. Initially he joined as Teleprinter Operator but was later  doing the work of Planner. He was being paid monthly salary of Rs 1500/- which was raised to Rs 2000/-p.m. Mahesh filed Complaint before Industrial Court, Bhandara on claiming the benefit of regularization and permanencey as Teleprinter Operator and later as Planner and payment of wages and grant of all other allied benefits as per Palekar and Bachawat Awards from the date he had completed 240 days continuous service.   The management, inter alia, took the stand that he was not employee of the newspaper establishment but that of a charitable organization known as “Manav Sewa Trust”.

After recording evidence of both sides and hearing them, the Industrial Court, Bhandara, granted to Mahesh Sakure the benefit of regularization and permanency as Teleprinter Operator w.e.f. 315.1997 and regularization and permanency as Planner w.e.f. 1.4.1998 and also granted overtime wages at double the rate for the excess 12 hours a week he had put in as Planner, which post falls in the catregory of “Journalist” and as per Section 6 of the Working Journalists Act, requires him to work only for 36 hours a week as against which he was being asked to work for 48 hours a week.  The Court also rejected the contention of the management that he was the employees of “Manav Sewa Trust”and not of “Lokmat”.

The management challenged the said order of the Industrial in Bombay High Court, Bench at Nagpur, and sought stay of the said order.  The Learned Single Judge granted stay of the order on the condition that the management shall pay to the workman a sum of Rs 10 Lakhs and a monthly salary of Rs Ten Thousand as interim relief, pending final decision of the case.

This order of the Learned Single Judge was challenged by the management before the Division Bench of the High Court by filing a Letters Patent Appeal which was dismissed by the Division Bench.  The management preferred a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court which was disposed of by the Supreme Court with a slight modification of the order to the effect that out of the amount of Rs 10 Lakhs granted to the workman as interim relief only Rs Five Lakhs shall be paid to him and the remaining amount of Rs Five Lakhs shall be kept in deposit by the High Court  till the disposal of the Writ Petition by the Learned Single and the same will be disposed as per the orders of the Learned Single Judge to be passed on the merits of the case.   The other interim order that during the pendency of the Writ Petition the employer shall pay salary of Rs 10,000/- was however confirmed by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court also directed the Learned Single Judge to dispose of the Writ Petition filed by the management within a period of three months. Upon this direction of the Supreme Court, the Learned Single Judge heard the matter of merits and finally dismissed the Writ Petition of the management with a direction that the workman should be paid the remaining balance of Rs Five Lakhs with interest and also imposed the cost of Rs 10,000/- on the management.

This judgment and order of the Learned Single Judge was again challenged by the management in the Supreme Court which was dismissed by the Supreme Court in limini on 12.10.2015. Meanwhile, the employee Shri Sakure has been fixed on a monthly salary of about Rs 35,000/- p.m., which he has been receiving under protest as details thereof have not been provided by the management.

The aforesaid claim of the workman is now calculated to be in the region of about Rs Forty Nine Lakhs for payment of which he has already represented to the management failing which another round of litigation for the same is round the corner. That since the management has not acceded to his request a claim for the sum of Rs 49,37,720.13 has already been filed before the Labour Court at Bhandara.

UNION FREED FROM THE CLUCTCHES OF LOKMAT MANAGEMENT – BATTLES ROYAL GO ON !

The background :

As stated elsewhere in this newsletter, the Lokmat Shramik Sanghatana, Nagpur, which is functioning since 1996, which is an affiliate of AINEF and a composite union of journalists and non journalist employees, has been fighting for reclassification of Lokmat Newspapers on the basis of their gross revenue in respect of Palekar Award, Bachawat Award, Manisana Award and now Majithia Award.

That the Lokmat Shramik Sanghatana, Nagpur, has also been fighting a Reference before the Industrial Tribunal, Nagpur, in regard to regularization and permanency of 78 journalist and non journalist employees who are being engaged on contract basis for several years now. That besides these two major demands, the union has also succeeded in many other individual disputes details of which are being given separately.

The Victimisation :

Feeling aggrieved and angered with the aforesaid efforts of the union to cover a major ground remaining untouched by any union in the country and also the efforts of the union at its expansion throughout Maharashtra/India by opening a Branch of the Union at Akola and Goa, the management  dismissed on 12.11.2013   President of Goa Branch Shri Rajesh Inmulwar, who was working on contract basis,  for his refusal to resign from the union.

That from 13th November 2013 employees started “Non cooperation movement” as a result of which, it is alleged by the management, that newspapers’ printing was badly affected putting it to huge financial loss.

On 20.11.2013, 61 employees, including eight journalists,  from various centres in the State, bulk of them 25 in number from Nagpur, all principal office bearers, were dismissed without enquiry and as the References are pending management sought approval of its action in respect of the dismissal of these 61 employees before the Industrial Tribunal.  The management examined 120 witnesses and union examined 24 witnesses.  Management’s arguments are over and on 20.4.2016 Union has also concluded its arguments.  The decision of the Tribunal is expected in June 2016.     

Capturing of the union by Lokmat management :    

Immediately on 20.11.2013 itself, before actual dismissal of office bearers of the Union, the management and its lackeys, Lokmat in its office premises and during office hours itself “elected” new office bearers of the union and the first thing done by them was to send a registered ack due letter to Shri S.D. Thakur, Advocate, informing that he was no longer Legal Advisor of the Union and, therefore, he should not appear on behalf of the union in any case.

Letters of intimation were also sent to the Additional Commissioner of Labour, Registrar of Trade Unions and the management of Lokmat.

The Great betrayal :

Thereafter, the most important work these lackeys of the management (Editor of City Edition and one Executive in Printing Depatment posing as President and General Secretary) did was to sign an unconditional  “settlement” with the management (i) withdrawing References seeking claissification of newspaper establishment on the basis of its gross revenue in respect of Palekar, Bachawat, Manisana and now Majithia and (ii) withdrawing Reference seeking regularization and permanency of 78 journalists and non journalist employees who are working on contract basis without any condition or benefit to the employees concerned.

When the real office bearers of the Union initiated legal proceedings against these bogus office bearers, several objections were raised to prolong the matter and on initial points the matter was taken to the High Court also.  The High Court rejected the Writ Petition of these lackeys of the management.  That after hearing the parties, the Industrial Court by its order dated 29.3.2016 held that the earlier office bearers (the real office bearers) are the true office bearers of the Union and the management’s lackeys  posing as President and General and Working Committee members are not the office bearers and working committee members of the Union as alleged by them.

The employees are agog with joy and sense of pride for the glorious victory and celebrated the same on 1st May boisterously.

13 Pasters get the designation and Grade of Scanners in Lokmat

The 13 Pasters who have been performing the duties of Scanners for a long time were not being given the designation and grade of Scanner and hence they had filed complaints before the Industrial Court under the provisions of Maharashtra Recognition of trade Unions & Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971.  The Industrial Court, Nagpur allowed these complaints and granted them designation and grade of Scanners with retrospective effect viz., 13.12.2004.

The Industrial Court also held that the category of Scanner being a journalist category the employees were required to work for only 36 hours a week as per Section 6 of WJ Act whereas in fact they were being asked to work for 48 hours a week.  Therefore, all these employees should be given overtime wages at double the rate for all the years they have been working as Scanners for extra 12 hours a week they have worked.

The employees have filed recovery proceedings against the management of Lokmat for recovery of amounts ranging between Rupees 17 Lakhs and Rupees 38 Lakhs per employee.

With May Day Greetings,

SD Thakur, Adv
President, AINEF

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