Department receives more than 70 complaints on ‘outsourcing’ and low wage

With numerous complaints of violation of wage payment or delayed payments reaching the Labour Department office here, officials have issued notices to the Mangalore City Corporation seeking explanation on “outsourcing” of jobs, which is prohibited by law.

Though the complaints were registered a year ago — and deferred until a related case on minimum wages reaches its conclusion in the High court — the Labour Department started to act on them now on the directions of Upalokayukta, Subhash B. Adi, who visited the city recently.

Labour officials estimated more than 70 complaints have been received from individuals and groups of contract labourers saying they had been paid less than minimum wage. Though minimum wage for pump operators was Rs. 7,000 and for street cleaners Rs. 6,400, on contract they were given up to Rs. 1,000 lesser and without Provident Fund or Employee Social Insurance (ESI), said officials.

Tasks and outsourcing

The complaints also raised the issue of the legality of “outsourcing” of jobs in urban bodies. The Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) (Karnataka) Rules, 1974, abolished the use of contract labour in civic services such as streetlight operation and maintenance, and water supply in municipal corporations of the State.

However, MCC in-charge Commissioner Gokuladas Nayak said the corporation did not “outsource” jobs instead “appointed tasks”. While outsourcing is defined as taking a definite number of employees and fixed pay into contract, a ‘task’ is defined as handing over a job to a contractor who decides number of employees and their pay, he said.

“It is up to the contractor to complete the task. We don’t know how many employees the contractor has or how much he pays them. If there are violations, it is on the contractor,” said Mr. Nayak, and added that with 1,125 posts out of sanctioned 1,725 posts being vacant, the corporation had no choice but to allot tasks. However, taking cognizance of existing complaints, he said the MCC had included clauses about payment in the tenders being called for the 2014-15 fiscal.

Labour officials said that ‘task’ is an attempt to bypass the term ‘contract labour’. “It’s the same wine in a different bottle… By using the word ‘task’, the MCC distances itself from contractor violations,” said an officer.

The department, however, is proceeding cautiously, knowing that they can’t take action against a government department which has “active approval” from the State government to outsource.

Apart from the MCC, the department has also sent notices to Zilla Panchayat, Deputy Commissioner’s office, Tahsildar’s office and Mescom requesting details on the number of contracted workers, agencies involved, wages, and their designations.

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