Ever since the extension of the lockdown up to May 3, the Labour Department has seen a surge in the number of complaints related to retrenchment and salary cuts, with officials fearing that things may get worse in the coming days.
The state Labour Department has been receiving complaints from the public days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a lockdown on March 24. As companies descended into financial crisis, phones in the department started ringing.
“It started with two to three complaints per day. The number of complaints has gone up in the last few days. We are receiving between 30 and 50 calls and most of them are related to salary cuts. We will issue notice to such companies,” Labour Commissioner K G Shantharam told DH.
The Union government has deployed four labour officers in Karnataka to receive complaints from workers. One of the officials said that as their numbers were published in the media, they were getting calls every 10 minutes. “Nearly half of the complaints are related to PF withdrawal and are guided to respective sections. Complaints about job losses and salary cuts have rise sharply over the last one week. We are sending daily reports to the Union government,” the official added.
Advocate and labour rights activist Clifton Rosario said most of the workers have lost confidence in the law. “The labour community is too weak to fight the entrenched employers. Most of them will not even think of complaining as demanding justice will only make them a target in future,” he said.
Withdrawal of circular
Rosario said the problem should have been tackled at the fundamental level. “The Centre should have included measures to mitigate the problems of the labourers in its announcement of the lockdown. It is unfortunate that the state government withdrew the only circular it passed to protect labourers,” he said.
Principal Secretary of Labour Department P Manivannan said the circular barring employers from sacking workers or cutting their salary was withdrawn because “we didn’t want it to clash with a similar order from the government of India”.
He said the department will announce a helpline for receiving such complaints. “A WhatsApp helpline will be operational from tomorrow (Monday). It’s only for workers whose salary is generally less than Rs 21,000 per month,”