Labour minister of Delhi, Gopal Rai, on Monday, June 15, directed the National Law University (NLU), Delhi to reinstate all 55 safai karamcharis whose jobs had been unlawfully terminated in the month of January 2020, after long, unrelenting efforts by them and the students of the university.
The safai karamcharis had been protesting since the past six months—since January 4, 2020—against their wrongful removal from the university without any prior notice. Many of these workers had been working at the university since its inception in 2008.
On June 15, a meeting was convened on the issue by Minister Gopal Rai, along with his secretary, and Officer on Special Duty Anil Ghildiyal. The meeting was attended by two representatives each of the workers and students, and representatives of the university administration, Siddharth Dahiya (Assistant Registrar) and S. C. Lather (Deputy Registrar).
An agitation was started by the students of NLUD on January 4, 2020, against the termination of the university’s contract with White Fox Support Services, which resulted in disengagement of 55 contractual workers. To replace them, the university awarded the contract to a third party private firm, namely, M/s Rajendra Management Group (RMG), which allegedly brought workers who are on contractual terms—which can be read as workers with less pay and no job security.
In a statement released on Tuesday, June 16, the NLUD Workers-Students Solidarity said, “The workers have been put through unsurmountable pain and agony due to systemic failures and apathy, as well as the labyrinth of the contractual labour system. After battling near-starvation, unemployment and endless uncertainty, this meeting is a huge respite for the workers. This marks the culmination of their spectacular struggle and serves as a reminder of their formidable strength.”
Also read: National Law University Students up in Arms Against Removal of Housekeeping Staff
According to the statement, the following directions were given to the university by the labour minister:
1. The contract signed between the University and the new contractor 'Rajendra Management Group' (RMG) for housekeeping services be immediately cancelled henceforth.
2. Before initiating a new tender process, manpower assessment of workers required for the University to be done as per the PWD norms by the Administrative Reforms Department.
3. The 55 wrongfully removed Safai Karamcharis be reinstated by the University. The University has to directly pay the Safai Karamcharis until the manpower assessment and the re-tendering process is completed.
On Wednesday, a written order stating the same was issued by OSD Anil Ghildiyal. The order said, “All the Housekeeping workers who were providing their services to the NLU before the commencement of existing contract should be directly deployed and paid by the university.”
The university, however, has claimed that it is not directly a party in this issue as the matter should have been dealt with by the contractor, and as a result, it cannot assure that the workers will be provided with continuous employment. “Retention or non-retention rests with the Contractors as per the terms and conditions of the contract. The University merely subscribes services and not workers hence this matter pertains to the contractor who incidentally did not attend this meeting,” the university told LiveLaw.
The students added, “We express gratitude to each and everyone who has supported the movement financially and otherwise. Needless to say, without your support, this would not have been possible. We hope this episode serves as a testament of what workers’ unity and students solidarity is capable of achieving.