Redressal mechanism for salary non-payment is slow

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 09, 2012 19:40 hrs

Employees of the ailing Kingfisher Airlines had last received their salaries six months earlier. Last week, the beleaguered airline got a breather after one of its frozen bank accounts was reactivated. This gave the airline a credit line of Rs 60 crore. The money was to be paid as salary but the employees are yet to receive it.

Kingfisher's is the latest example. Earlier, Air India had not paid some allowance to its employees. Two years before, real estate major Hiranandani Group was pulled up by the Central Bureau of Investigation for not paying employee provident fund (EPF) dues to 30-odd employees between 2003 and 04.

Given the present market conditions, it won't be surprising if more companies come under financial stress. And, you could be at the receiving end.

Salary not paid
While Kingfisher and Air India employees took to open dialogue with the management and striking work, there are other ways to get your dues.

Legal experts say employees can drag their employer to court the minute their salary is delayed, even by a day. But advocate Mohit Kapoor advises first writing to the company giving details of the amount due and giving the employer time to respond before going to court. If the company does not respond to your request or letter, you can take the employer to court.

In India, any employee can file a case in a labour court under Section 33 (C2) of the Industrial Disputes Act if the matter deals with wage and related problems. Here, if the management does not agree with your case (under the Industrial Disputes Act), you can go to the Labour Commissioner. The Commissioner cannot give a verdict he/she can only help resolve your problem or re-conciliate matters. In case, no solution is reached, the Commissioner will hand over the matter to the government, which in turn, can escalate it to the court, says lawyer Jane Cox.

However, Maharashtra has some more provisions for aggrieved employees. Here, if you are a workman by definition (Class I employee), but not a central government employee, you can file a case under the Maharashtra Registration of Trade Union and Unfair Labour Practices Act or Industrial Disputes Act, explains Cox.

Central government workmen or employees, says Cox, like airline employees, can approach the high court or the Labour Commissioner.

Those who don't fall under the workmen category, that is, anyone above the executive level or managers and above, can file a case against the employers in the civil court.

There isn't any time line you can get for resolution of such cases. Once the case goes to court, the law takes its own course and time. Mostly, it ends up being a frustratingly long-drawn case and employees get their dues three-four years later.

Provident fund not paid
In cases where you've not been paid dues like employer's contribution towards provident fund (PF), you can make a representation to the Regional Commissioner Employees Provident Fund, with all the documentary evidences (annual provident fund slip, salary slip). The Commissioner will take up the matter with the Employee Provident Fund inspector. “If the company is found guilty, the inspector can ask the company to pay up to 100 per cent damages. So, if the company is supposed to pay Rs 1,000, it would be asked to cough up double the amount. Also, the employer is asked to pay the interest dues on the amount that was not deposited,” says Kapoor.

Deducted PF, but not deposited
Some companies, might make deductions for EPF from your salary but not deposit this. Then also one can approach the Employee Provident Fund Commissioner. The process could take four to five months depending on the case. Further, you cannot withdraw the entire amount if you continue to be the employee of the company. You can withdraw up to 50 per cent of the amount.

If you are aware of labour laws, that is, you know how to make a plaint, know previous similar cases and their judgments, know how to set precedence of those cases for your petition, you can fight your own case in the labour court, says advocate Shelina Mobhani.

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