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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

‘India Labour Line’ helps 788 laborers to claim outstanding wages of Rs 1 crore 34 lakhs

In the struggle for the rights of workers in the unorganized sector, 788 laborers with the help of India Labour Line have been paid Rs 1 crore 34 lakhs outstanding wages/salaries. Workers from Uttar Pradesh also benefited – 152 laborers were paid Rs 5,77,000 in arrears.

Lucknow The financial condition of the household was not good. To meet their daily expenses and support her husband, Priti started working as a  daily laborer in Sonepat, Haryana, in industrial unit making utensils. Everything was going well, but last December the company owner stopped paying wages. In the meantime, Priti’s 5-year-old daughter fell from the roof and was seriously injured.

Priti had to spend heavily on her daughter’s treatment, which further worsened the household’s financial situation. Hence, when the company owner continued to ignore repeated requests for payment of arrears, the labor helpline India Labour Line, which was set up by the Working Peoples’ Coalition (WPC), intervened in the matter. After this, the matter was resolved, and Priti was indeed paid her outstanding wages.

“I gave the helpline the information about my wife’s work and outstanding wages. Within the next 24 hours, her wage was paid,” Priti’s husband Sunny said to The Mooknayak team. He works as a supervisor in an industrial unit in Kaushambi, Ghaziabad. He was given the India Labour Linehelpline number while inquiring about voluntary organizations that helped resolve matters related to the payment of wages.

A representative of India Labour Line giving information about the helpline to women at Vikas Nagar labour chowk in Lucknow/Photo – Arun Verma, The Mooknayak
A representative of India Labour Line giving information about the helpline to women at Vikas Nagar labor chowk in Lucknow/Photo – Arun Verma, The Mooknayak

No help from the police

Before calling Labour Line, the husband and wife had gone to the nearby Kundali police station. The police officials there had dismissed them saying that it was a matter for the labor Court. Sunny, however, called the helpline and the India Labour Line representative took all the information from them. When the representative called Priti’s employer, he paid up 60% of the outstanding wages within five minutes. The remaining Rs. 3,390 was paid by the next day. In this way, Priti received a total payment of Rs 9,590 in arrears.

Before they called the India Labour Linehelpline, they had given up hope of getting the outstanding wages, the couple told The Mooknayak reporter. In the present circumstances, they were not in a position to fight a long legal battle for the payment of wages. At this time, coming across the Labour Line representative was nothing short of a miracle for them.

In another such case,26-year-old Vijay Kumar, a painter by profession, 2020, along with a co-worker, had carried out whitewashing and painting work in a house being constructed in Sector 16, Indira Nagar, Lucknow in the year 2020. After the lockdown was imposed, the house-owner Ranvijay Singh held back payment of about Rs 40,000. He also stopped answering phone calls and messages.

“It had been almost two years since our outstanding wages had not been paid. My partner and I were very anxious. During this time, one day when we were at the Indira Nagar Block C Labour Chowk in search of work, we were given a leaflet about the labor helpline. We called the helpline number for support,” Vijay said.

The Labour Line Tele counselor initiated action on the complaint, and as part of this, the house owner was contacted. Due to the lack of a positive response, a legal notice was sent with the help of the Lucknow office. At the same time, the workers were motivated to file a complaint against the employer at the relevant police station. On being contacted repeatedly by the India Labour Line representative, the employer accused the workers of not doing the work properly and causing damage.

“A representative from the helpline’s Lucknow office went with us to meet the house owner and inspected the building under construction in his presence. There was some work left to do and this was discussed. Immediately after this, we received a payment of Rs. 20,000. The next day, after the remaining whitewashing work was completed another payment of Rs. 20,000 was also made,” informed Vijay.

A representative of India Labour Line giving information about the helpline at Arjunganj LabourChowk in Lucknow / Photo - Arun Verma, The Mooknayak
A representative of India Labour Line giving information about the helpline at Arjunganj LabourChowk in Lucknow / Photo – Arun Verma, The Mooknayak

With headquarters in Mumbai, the WPC is a coalition of more than 150 local and regional organizations working for the betterment of the conditions of work of informal workers. Last year, in July 2021, the India LabourLine helpline was launched to provide legal aid and mediation services for workers in the informal work sector. At present, the India Labour Line has offices in five states, and free support is provided to workers from the offices in Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, and Bangalore.

A total of 2,342 complaints have been received from across the country since the launch of the helpline. Out of these, 788 cases have been resolved by mediation, in which the workers have been paid outstanding wages amounting to Rs. 1 crore and 34 lakhs. In this, the Lucknow team has recorded 323 cases since the launch of the helpline. Out of these, 152 cases have been resolved, with Rs. 5,77,000 paid in arrears.

Guru Prasad, state coordinator of India Labour Line said, “India Labour Line is an innovative initiative providing support to workers in the unorganized sector for resolving work-related disputes. Organized-sector workers can easily access Labour Courts for the resolution of their work-related problems. However, unorganized-sector workers may not be able to access the Court due to lack of information and other reasons. Nor is it easy for them to hire an expensive lawyer to register a case in court. In such a situation, with the help of the helpline, we aid in resolving the dispute through arbitration.

The challenges are many

The Labour Line team faces all kinds of challenges in resolving disputes related to the payment of wage arrears. Sometimes, employers block the helpline’s mobile number. They may not turn up at the office when they are asked to attend arbitration, and may not pay the employee’s outstanding salary or wages.

“In such cases, we go directly to the employer’s office or home to talk to them,” Guru Prasad explained, “We inform them about the law, and caution them that a suit will be filed against them in the labor court.”

In association with WPC Science Foundation, direct contact has been established with more than 30,000 workers in cities like Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Banaras, Sitapur, and Meerut. For this, visits were made to Labour Chowks, and banners and posters were put up on various public transport means and in public places. In addition, outreach through Radio Mirchi and Lalit Lokvani FM channels has resulted in reaching over 2.5 lakh workers.

Helpline Number –18008339020

Arun Kr Verma
Arun Kr Verma
Journalist, The Mooknayak

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