Labour Minister of the Delhi Government, Gopal Rai, met with the students of National Law University of Delhi (NLU Delhi) to discuss the alleged unlawful termination of the housekeeping staff of the university. Consequently, the Labour Minister ordered the University to reinstate all 55 safai karmcharis who lost their jobs amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.
Students, Protests and a Win
On January 4th, 2020, the students of NLU Delhi started their protest against termination of the contract with White Fox and Golden. The termination had left 55 contractual workers unemployed, without any prior notice. The University later, contracted with Rajendra Management Group (RMG), as per the students. The University allegedly passed the contract without evaluating the manpower necessities as mandated by a notification issued by the Delhi government.
Appropriately, students sought to cancel the contract with RMG and retain all old contractual workers. The students stated that the University should strictly adhere to all labor laws and relevant statutory provisions.
“Saving manpower beyond 20% amounts to exploitation”, exclaimed the students.
The meeting was held on 15th June 2020, between the Ministry, students, and all stakeholders. It also comprised of two students and two workers.
Labour Minister issues directions against University actions
In the meeting on 15th June 2020, the Labour Minister issued certain directions against the actions of the University:
- The contract passed between NLU Delhi and RMG for housekeeping services is to be immediately canceled henceforth.
- The University must reinstate the terminated 55 Safai Karamcharis.
- The Administrative Reforms Department will henceforth calculate the manpower requirement of Safai Karamcharis for the University according to Public Works Department norms. After the assessment, the re-tendering process for the housekeeping services will begin.
- The University is to directly pay the Safai Karamcharisuntil they complete the manpower assessment and the re-tendering process.
“This marks the successful culmination of the 5 and a month-long relentless agitation led by the wrongfully removed safai karamcharis of National Law University, Delhi”, NLUD Workers-Students Solidarity.
Contentions of the University
The University clearly stated that:
“We are not a direct party in this issue as the matter is between the workers and the contractor. Retention or non-retention rests with the contractors as per the terms and conditions of the contract. The University merely subscribes services and not workers. Hence this matter pertains to the contractor who incidentally did not attend this meeting. This Contractor has also offered all the remaining workers to give employment within a radius of 5 km. The University under any circumstances cannot assure of giving continuous employment such type of workers in the future.”
It also stated that the phrase “55 workers” is untrue, since half of the total workers of the University belong to the previous group itself. Since they are not a direct party to the issue, the University cannot assure of giving them continuous employment. Notably, the contractor has also offered the rest of the workers’ employment, within a radius of 5km.
In reply to the above contentions, the student protestors stated that the old contract under which they employed the workers was a sham. Moreover, the university had defaulted in not giving prior notice to their termination as well. It had also neglected to reiterate a mandatory manpower assessment exercise before passing a new contract with RMG.
Earlier in July 2017 communication as well, the University did not give reasonable replies to queries regarding the requirement of staff they would deploy for housekeeping. And whether this would be assessed based on the PWD/Government norms.