Home Legal News NLUD Workers-Students Solidarity Group issues statement on alleged illegal termination of sanitation workers implying University’s liability

NLUD Workers-Students Solidarity Group issues statement on alleged illegal termination of sanitation workers implying University’s liability

by Muskan
NLU Delhi
The NLUD Workers-Students Solidarity group has issued a statement on the issue of alleged illegal termination of its sanitation staff.

The statement reads,

The matter of reinstatement of SafaiKaramcharis and cancellation of contract is not just between the contractor and the workers. The University, being a principal employer, has clear obligations under the law. The University Administration has been a part of the meetings with the Labour Ministry and has actively participated in the process, even in the absence of the contractor. Moreover, the Written Order is addressed to the University Registrar, NLUD and not the contractor,” the group said.

The statement was issued as a response to the press note released by the University, stating that it has no legal obligation for employment/ termination of sanitation staff.

Relationship between the University and the workers

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Pointing that the NLUD has an obligation towards these workers as it exercises control and supervision over the workers, through its officers – the Assistant Registrar and the Wardens, the students stated that it could not claim that it only ‘hire services and not workers’,

ALSO READ: [NLUD Protesting to implement labour ministry orders ] University Has No Legal Obligation Towards Contract Workers: NLUD On Sanitation Worker Re-Instatement

Attempting to further establish an employer-employee relationship, the students stated,

The workers have always approached the Assistant Registrar for sanctioning leaves. The job profile of the Assistant Registrar itself explicitly entrusts him with responsibility of the housekeeping staff. The Contractor or the Field Officers never came into the picture. In fact, they have hardly ever come to the college to deal with such matters in the past 12 years. Furthermore, the Wardens of the University were involved in assigning the floors of the University buildings to all the workers.”

The NLU-D administration had claimed via its statement that,

the workers have no enforceable rights vis-vis principal employer for continued retention and hence any direction to retain them after the termination of contract is without any legal basis.”

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Countering this, the students stated,

The administration kept on renewing the housekeeping contract for 12 years, with nearly the same set of workers, ‘without formal contract agreement with the (erstwhile) contractor’ and ‘without advertised tender enquiry process’. Without formal contract agreement, as stated in the CAG report, how could the University engage the workers’ services for the past 12 years? Even after the term of the old contractors ended, the workers were engaged by the University directly, for 3 days (28.12.19 to 30.12.19). If we accept the stance of the University administration that they ‘hire services, not workers’ then how could the workers continue to work at the University in absence of the contractor for the said time period under the control and supervision of the University administration?

On alternate employment

Regarding the offer of alternate employment made to the safaikarmcharis on the basis of the University’s “humanitarian” request, the same was unanimously rejectedas it does not address the concerns of the workers and was a “mere façade”.

The students said,

The workers feared victimization and exploitation at the hands of the new contractor if they were to accept such an offer by the new contractor. Since the duration of contract and job security at the alternate sites has not been specified at all, it is plausible that the contract might be for a short duration rendering them unemployed again in a few months. Therefore, despite the ‘magnanimous’ move by the University administration in persuading RMG to retain the workers, these serious apprehensions of the Karamcharis about working with a new and unknown contractor, which was introduced to them at a moment’s notice, cannot 24 June 2020 Page 3 of 5 be simply disregarded.

On the Present Order, Powers of the VC, Labour Ministry and Institutional Autonomy

The University had claimed that the Labour Ministry’s order to reinstates all the workers directly impinged upon the “autonomy” of the University, which is considered “sacrosanct” under the NLUD Act, 2008, and as has also been recognized by the Supreme Court in State of Punjab &Anr. v. Sardari Lal &Ors.

Opposing this, the students asserted,

The Labour Ministry is well within their powers to pass the present Order dated 17.06.2020 on the issue of sanitation services, making this a ‘legal and reasonable process’. It is wholly consistent with principles of natural justice, due process and has been reached through the University’s active representations before the Ministry. The University cannot, in the face of an unfavourable outcome, distance itself from this fairly reached outcome.

The students added,

State of Punjab AndAnr. vs Sardari Lal AndOrs, as cited by the University, deals with the issue of autonomy with respect to permanent employees and a university’s power to grant ‘increment and allowance to its employees’. The present matter is evidently unrelated and distinguishable.

Background

The protests in question began on January 4 this year against termination of the contract (without any prior notice) with White Fox and Golden which resulted in the disengagement of 55 contractual workers.

The NLUD then entered into a new contract with Rajendra Management Group (RMG), whose tender, according to the students, was allegedly passed without assessing the manpower requirement as mandatedin a notification issued by the Delhi government.

The students have demandedthat all old contractual workers should be retained and the new contract with RMG should be cancelled. While reminding the University administration that saving manpower beyond 20% amounts to exploitation, the students insisted that the University should strictly comply with all labour laws and other statutory provisions.

Clarifying the factual position on the matter on June 22, the NLUD University said that it hired the services of house-keeping staff through a contractor in 2008, without any legal requirement for assessment of manpower. However, guidelines regarding the same were issued by the Delhi Government in 2012, pursuant to which the State Audit Team as well as the CAG Audit Team asked the University to float fresh tender for outsourcing the services of safaikarmcharis.

After following the norms to assess the requirement of safaikaramcharis, the University floated fresh tender, which was awarded to the present contractor RMG. Further, since the tenure of earlier contractor White Fox and Golden was over, its manpower was withdrawn.

It was further stated that the entire process was legally sound as per the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. v. Mahendra Prasad Jakhmola&Ors., to determine the relationship of employer and employee.

As of now, the matter has gone to the University Chancellor for consideration.

Read the statement here:

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