note demonetisation

The cashless wage ordinance has brought more distress than relief for industrial workers

Factory workers in Delhi complain of an inordinate delay in receiving their wages, and no payment for overtime.

In the immediate aftermath of the demonetisation announcement, several factories in Delhi’s industrial areas continued to pay their workers in old high-value denominations that had been outlawed. The push by the government in subsequent weeks to ensure that factories go cashless – it passed an ordinance in December that permitted factories to pay workers via cheque or electronic funds transfer – meant that employers then paid workers via cheque or bank transfer. But this brought a set of new problems for industrial workers who are already dealing with a shortfall in available work because of a demonetisation-induced slowdown.

Employers are not only delaying handing out cheques, they are directing workers to delay depositing them. But most importantly, trade union members allege that employers are now cheating their workers of their dues for putting in overtime. Helpless in an employers’ market, the workers have no option but to acquiesce.

Delayed wages

Ramakant Yadav, 45, works in the engineering department of a factory that produces spare parts for power transmission equipment at Mayapuri industrial area in West Delhi. He received a cheque for his work in December on January 25.

Under the provisions of the Payment of Wages Act, which provides employers with a seven-day grace period to pay their workers wages for the previous month, workers are supposed to receive their pay by the seventh of each month.

“I received my cheque 18 days late,” said Yadav. “It came with a condition – the management has asked us not to drop it in the bank before the coming Monday without taking permission. Life becomes tough due to such a delay in receiving our wages. We need cash for at least essentials like bread and milk. But what can we do? There are hardly any jobs in industrial areas these days.”

After industrial workers across the country complained that their employers were still paying them in old currency following demonetisation, on December 21, the government passed an ordinance to amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, to allow employers in certain industries to pay their workers via cheque or electronic transfers.

Several trade unions across the country criticised the ordinance. They said that it took away workers’ right to receive wages through means other than cash only after consenting to it in writing.

Unpaid overtime

Trade union officials said that the ordinance has not eased the troubles of workers.

“Following the ordinance, nearly 90% industrial units in Delhi are paying employees through cheque but this has brought a new set of problems,” said Chhotelal Tiwari, general secretary, South West Delhi, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, which had vehemently criticised the ordinance. “There is an inordinate delay in payment of salary through cheques. Many units are yet to issue cheques and this is giving workers a hard time. Some workers have also been issued with post-dated cheques, and some employers have put conditions that the workers should not deposit the cheques in banks without seeking permission from the management.”

Tiwari added that payments through cheques or electronic mode meant that employers had to pay their workers the legal minimum wage, which is higher than what workers were drawing earlier. As a result of this, employers were forcing their staff to put in overtime, and not paying them for it. According to the law, the pay for overtime is double the hourly rate.

“Employers now have to pay the minimum wages as the payment is made through cheque,” said Tiwari. “So the employers exploit them by making them work for 12 hours instead of eight and do not show the four overtime hours on record.”

Ramakant Yadav and the other workers in his factory – those who remain after mass termination of factory workers in the weeks following the demonetisation announcement – said that they had not been paid for overtime during the last three months. The story repeats itself in factories across Mayapuri industrial area.

“There has been no overtime payment since the management has started paying through cheque,” said Abdul Kareem Sheikh, a native of West Bengal’s Burdman district who works at a garment factory in Mayapuri.

But he said that he had a bigger problem.

“I am among the very few ones who are still receiving my salary through cash and we have been asked to open bank accounts at the earliest,” said Sheikh. “But I am unable to do so as I do not have any address proof pertaining to Delhi. I live in a rented room and my landlord has refused to provide anything in writing.”

Take it, or leave it

The drop in employment opportunities following demonetisation means that factory workers are not in a good position to negotiate with factory managements either, and they have to accept whatever they are paid, said Rajesh Kumar, general secretary, Delhi, of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions

In the past two months, workers have seen factories shutting down, closing certain departments or reducing their operational capacity, thus leading to mass sacking of workers, said Kumar. He added that around 75% of those sacked are yet to find work again as the factories haven’t yet recovered from the blow of demonetisation.

“Presently, there is no voice to protest,” he said.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

Play
Play
Play

2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.