Madras High Court
Madras High Court
Litigation News

PIL moved in Madras HC against termination, wage reduction, forced resignation etc. of Private Sector Employees during COVID-19 crisis

Meera Emmanuel

A PIL has been moved in the Madras High Court urging that a writ of mandamus be issued so that private sector employers do not terminate their employees or reduce wages during the present COVID-19 crisis.

The petitioner, Advocate Arun Saravanan states that the plea has been moved to guard against inhuman treatment being meted out against employees in the private sector.

In this regard, Saravanan argues that private sector employers are "arbitrarily issuing termination notices, imposing steep wage cuts unilaterally, sending workers and employees on indefinite unpaid leave thereby depriving the salary of the working class", apart from "forcefully making employees resign."

Pertinently, the petitioner points out that this is despite advisories issued by the Union Labour Ministry and personal appeals by the Prime Ministry to refrain from terminating employees during this time.

In particular, the Labour Ministry's March 20 circular is highlighted, which had sought the cooperation of the Public and Private establishment employers to ensure that their employees are not terminated and so that their wages are not reduced during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Regardless, the petitioner raises grievance that many pivate employers in are initiating coercive steps to lay off their employees forcibly. Further apprehension is raise that employees are also likely to face pay cuts so that the employer thereby makes up for the losses incurred during the lockdown period.

In this backdrop, Saravanan has raised concern that.

"... if the Private sectors are forcibly making their employees to resign then there is no other way for the employee to meet out his basic needs and he will be put to grave psychological breakdown and financial crunch... it will weaken their financial condition and also hamper the morale support lent to combat this epidemic."

Furthermore, the petitioner also highlights that such "termination of services, reduction in wages and forced unpaid leave is in violation of the terms of service and appointment letters/contracts of the employees of Private sectors including but not limited to Service Sector."

It is added that such employees may also find it difficult to find new jobs since other private players may not be financially ready to accommodate fresh employees, given the present crisis.

Contending that employees of all categories have been guaranteed with the "Fundamental Right to Profession and the Right to life as envisaged under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner prays that the State Labour Ministry be directed to issue a circular/advisory so that private sector employees are no terminated, compelled to resign or forced to accept pay cuts under the guise of a nation-wide lockdown.

The petition has been filed through Advocates Nirmal Aditya and L Narasimha Varman.

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