Another saga of battle royal won by seven daily wager peons in Lokmat Newspapers right upto Supreme Court.. The seven daily wager Peons working with Lokmat since the dates below with their names :
1. Dnyaneshwar Kadu 6.11.1992
2. Sanjay Ingle 8.07.1993
3. Shalikram Waghade Oct. 1994
4. Fulchand Gedam June 1991
5. Ramesh Marwadi Oct. 1994
6. Prabhakar Choudhari 28.9.1992
7. Bharat Pimple 13.9.1992
Filed cases on 10.10.1996 for their regularization and permanency and for wages as per Palekar, Bachawat etc., before Industrial Court, Nagpur. Management took objection that they were not employees of Lokmat but were domestic servants of their officers and thus there was no employer-employee relationship. That, therefore, as per the decisions of the Supreme Court in the matter of General Labour Union (Red Flag, Bombay) v. Ahmadabad Mfg. & Calico Printing Co. Ltd reported in 1995 Supp (1) SCC 175, Vivid Kamgar Sabha v. Kalyani Steels Ltd. and Anr. Reported in 2001 (2) SCC 381, Cipla Ltd. v. Maharashtra General Kamgar Union reported in 2001 (3) SCC 101 and Sarva Shramik Sangh v. Indian Smelting & Refining Co. reported in 2003 (10) SCC 455 since employer-employee relationship was disputed complaint under Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Union & Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971 was not maintainable.
Pending cases for regularization and permanency, they were orally terminated from service w.e.f. 1.5.1998. At the fag end of the recording of evidence, Management raised the objection that since employer-employee relationship was disputed the said issue of maintainability of the complaints be decided first. The Industrial Court held that since it was in the concluding stage of recording evidence it will decide the issue of maintainability of complaints along with merits. The employer challenged the said order directly in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused to interfere and held that outcome of the Industrial Court’s decision will be open to challenge by the affected party. The Industrial Court allowed complaints of all the seven daily wagers by directing management to make them regular and permanent peons after completion of 240 days continuous service and also grant them benefits of the Awards.
THE SET BACK
The order of the Industrial Court was set aside by the High Court on the ground that since the employer-employee relationship was disputed the complaint was not maintainable. This judgment of the High Court was challenged by the workmen directly before the Supreme Court instead of filing Letters Patent Appeal before the Division Bench of the High Court. The Supreme Court refused to interfere and directed workmen to file Letters Patent Appeal before the High Court. Upon filing Letters Patent Appeal Division Bench rejected the same on the ground of limitation. Again workmen approached the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court condoned the delay and directed the High Court to dispose of the Letters Patent Appeal expeditiously.
The Division Bench heard the Letters Patent Appeal of the workmen on the matter of jurisdiction and allowed the same holding that the Industrial Court had jurisdiction to entertain the case and hence the complaints were maintainable and remanded the matter to Single Judge for being decided on merits. This order of the Division Bench was challenged by the Management in Review and failing therein again before the Supreme Court where the Special Leave Petition of the Management was dismissed in limini.
THE ORDEAL BEGINS
Thereafter the matter was heard by Single Judge of the High Court on merits who confirmed the order of Industrial Court. This order of the Single Judge was again challenged before the Division Bench failing there again in the Supreme Court where the matter remained pending since 12.1.2010 while issuing notice on Management’s Special Leave Petitions the Supreme Court ordered them to deposit Rs. 20,000/- in each case towards expenses for the workmen.
That when the Special Leave Petitions of the Management were so pending, workmen filed an application before Supreme Court stating that in their vacant posts the Management has engaged fresh daily wagers to work as Peons and they were being paid to Rs. 200/- per day as against the amount of Rs. 30/- per day which was being paid to them. The workmen volunteered to work at the original rate of Rs. 30/- per day pending decision in the Special Leave Petitions. The Bench of the Supreme Court presided over by Hon’ble Mr. J.S. Kehar J., directed the Management by order dated 7.3.2014 to take there workmen in employment and pay them regular wages (which came to about Rs.30,000/- per month as against the willingness of the workmen to work on Rs. 30/- per day).
TRANSFERS BY WAY OF VICTIMISATION
That as a result of the order of the Supreme Court when the workmen joined their duties at Nagpur, they were given transfer orders to Goa, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Hydrabad, and Ahmedabad. The workers again approached the Supreme Court against this Unfair Labour Practice and upon hearing the parties, the Supreme Court directed the Management to allow them to work at Nagpur itself. That since the appointment letters were given in the name of “Lokmat Media Pvt. Ltd.” a new Company, the Supreme Court, upon protest by the workmen, allowed them to join duties under protest without prejudice to their rights in this regard.
THE GREAT VICTORY
The matter was finally heard in the Supreme Court on 10.11.2016 and the Supreme Court confirmed the order of the Industrial Court granting them regularization and permanency with retrospective effect and to pay them 45% of their back wages within a period of three months.
It is indeed inspiring story of 20 long years struggle for justice during which the workers and their families underwent long and arduous period of sufferings, deprivation and depression but stood their ground firmly. Presently their salaries are between Rs.35,000/- and Rs. 37,000/- (which is according to the fixation done by the management and accepted by us under protest without prejudice to our right to claim correct wages as cases of reclassification of the newspaper are pending before Industrial Tribunals at Nagpur) and are of course legitimately proud of their victory, which has morale boosting effect on the newspaper employees at large.
The relevant judgments of Learned Single Judges, Division Bench are available in the following Law Reports :
1. Lokmat v. Dnyeshwar Kadu reported in 2002 (2) BCR 60:2002 (5) Mh.LJ 457
2. Lokmat Prop., Lokmat Newspaper Ltd. v. Prabhakar Rambhauji Choudhari reported in 2003 (4) BCR 391:2003 (2) LLJ 283 : 2003 (1) Mh.LJ 485
3. Fulchand B. Gedam v. Lokmat reported in 2006 (6) BCR 28 (DB)
4. Lokmat Prop., Lokmat Newspaper Ltd. v. Prabhakar R. Choudhari and others. reported in 2009 (2) BCR 262:2009 (2) Mh.LJ 369
Shri S.D. Thakur, Advocate, President All India Newspaper Employees Federation handled the cases of these workmen throughout upto and including Supreme Court.
With New Years Greetings to all comrades .
– S. D. Thakur, Adv.
Bhawan, 31, Nav Nirman Housing Society,
Rana Pratap Nagar, Nagpur 440 022.
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