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SC allows firms to negotiate with staff on lockdown wages

Picking up the pieces:Employees get down to work in one of the factories that reopened at G.T. Karnal Road in Delhi after over two months.Sushil Kumar Verma

Picking up the pieces:Employees get down to work in one of the factories that reopened at G.T. Karnal Road in Delhi after over two months.Sushil Kumar Verma  

No coercive action will be taken for non-payment of full salary, says top court

The Supreme Court on Friday asked factory owners and other private industrial establishments to negotiate terms and enter into settlements with their workers on the payment of wages during the lockdown period.

A Bench, led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, observed that industry cannot survive without its labourers and workers.

The court urged employers and employees to sort out their differences and resume work in a congenial atmosphere.

The court’s order came on a batch of petitions filed by industry owners against a March 29 government notification compelling them to pay full wages to workers. The notification was rescinded on May 17, after 54 days.

Resumption of work

In its order on Friday, the court asked employers to allow their workers to resume their jobs. This is without prejudice to the rights of the employees regarding unpaid wages for these 54 days.

It said that employers whose factories had continued to work during the lockdown, though not to full capacity, may also enter into talks.

Employers and workers could seek the help of Labour Department authorities and trade unions to reach a settlement. The court highlighted that the government, too, had an obligation to ensure conciliation between private employers and their workers for the smooth running of industrial establishments. “Lockdown had an equally adverse effect on the employers as well as on employees,” the court observed.

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