Bombay HC holds Tata Motors liable for unfair labour practice, orders compensation for 52 temporary employees

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The Bombay High Court recently directed Tata Motors to compensate 52 of its former temporary employees after holding that the company had indulged in unfair labour practices [Shankar Bhimrao Kadam & Ors. vs Tata Motors Ltd.]

Justice RV Ghuge was of the view that the employees were terminated strategically so as to ensure that they were not employed continuously for more than 240 days, the criterion to be deemed a permanent employee.

“I find that the respondent-management has systematically prevented these temporaries from completing 240 days in continuous employment and had foisted involuntary employment on these temporaries before they could complete 240 days only to paint an imperfect picture that the work had come to an end and, therefore, these temporaries were disengaged by efflux of time”.

As per the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, completing 240 days in employment entitles a worker to permanent status and thus higher wages.

It was the case of the petitioners that the automobile manufacturing company, to avoid conferring such status to the workers, terminated their contracts just before completion of 240 days of service.

They then raised an industrial dispute under Section 2A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and made efforts to reach an agreement through conciliation.

The conciliation officer submitted a failure report after which the appropriate government referred the dispute to the Labour Court in Pune. The court answered all the reference cases in the negative.

Aggrieved, the petitioners moved the High Court.

According to the petitioners the company was giving permanent-level work to them by paying roughly one-third of the salary entitled to permanent workers.

They thus sought that respondents be declared as having indulged in unfair labour practices along with directions to the management to reinstate them as permanent workmen with full back-wages.

The respondents claimed that the demands of the workers were not bonafide as the company engaged temporary workmen only to meet the demands of temporary rise in work and whenever the work allotted was over, they were terminated.

The High Court found this particular submission to be weak as it found that the termination was not related to the fluctuation in manufacturing activities.

“Most of them had reached in between 230 days to 238 days. This demolishes the case of the management that the temporaries’ engagement were strictly co-related to the rise and fall of manufacturing activities exactly after completing seven months in employment,” it held.

The respondents argued that since none of them had completed the ‘magical’ number of 240 days, they were not entitled for permanency.

The allegation of the petitioners that the artificial breaks were deliberately introduced in order to avoid conferring permanent status to them was also rejected by the single-judge who held that Tata Motors had foisted involuntary employment upon the petitioners.

Therefore he directed the compensation to be computed and paid, within 2 months, as follows:

1. For employment of 211 days and above – ₹75,000

2. 180 to 210 days – ₹65,000

3. 150-179 days – ₹55,000

4. 120-149 days – ₹45,000

5. 90-119 days – ₹35,000

6. 60-89 days – ₹25,000

7. Below 60 days – no compensation

There were a total of 52 petitioners, and the Registry informed that the hard copy of 35 of these pleas were destroyed by white ants.

Hence, the Court ordered their advocate to serve a copy of the same.

The petitioners were represented by senior advocate Sanjay Singhvi who was instructed by advocate Rahul Kamerkar.

Senior advocate CU Singh with advocate Kiran Bapat appeared for the respondents and were instructed by Haresh Mehta & Co.

Read Judgment here:

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