Lockdown Blowback: Jaypee Hotel Workers in Delhi Begin Sit-in Protests Over Unpaid Dues
NEW DELHI: Scores of workers of Jaypee Group of Hotels, a private five-star conglomerate, have started a roadside protest in New Delhi against the company alleging that they have been denied their dues during the coronavirus lockdown period, including provident fund, dearness allowances and even basic salaries.
The protest, which began on Monday, is underway in the posh Vasant Vihar area in the national capital. The protesters have been holding a relay sit-in protest under the banner of ‘Hotel Workers Union’ on a road at stone’s throw distance from the premises of Jaypee Vasant Continental.
“We are sitting in protest against the Jaypee Hotels,” Murari Lal Sharma, general secretary of the union, told NewsClick, adding that “our workers are facing injustice. They have not been paid salaries, PF and dearness allowances for the period of the (COVID-19) lockdown.
In March 2020, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the sudden lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, everything came to a grinding halt in the country. The lockdown restricted the ability of the people to go to work. While those working in the government sector were paid regularly, millions of workers in the private sector took a hit.
The situation eased to some extent in October 2020 but after relief of a few months, the country was hit by the pandemic’s second wave in April 2021, and once again the government enforced blanket curbs, forcing people out of work.
Naresh Kumar, who works in the housekeeping department at Jaypee Vasant Continental, said he joined the company in 1982. He started with a salary of Rs 345 and today draws Rs 28,000 per month. “In my 40 years, I have served the hotel with tann-mann (body and spirit) but in return we are not getting as much as we deserve,” he said.
Kumar alleged he did not get salary and allowances, including bonus, leave travel allowance and DA during the period of lockdown. “The amount runs in lakhs. We are struggling to pay house rents and fees for our children’s education,” said Kumar, who hails from Uttar Pradesh.
NewsClick approached the hotel management to seek their response to the protest but no one agreed to talk on record. One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that allegations made against the company were “not valid”.
“The dues of the workers have been paid or are being paid. Father and son can have differences but cannot have rifts,” the official said, claiming that even in the toughest of times, the company did not lay off anybody.
“We are taking care of the welfare of the workers,” the company official said.
According to Sharma, the union raised the issue of workers with the company multiple times but no substantial relief has come as yet. “They assured us of help but when the issues were not resolved for months, we were compelled to hit the roads.” He said the protest would last until their demands were met.
The workers attend the protests in batches. One group occupies the site in the morning shift and then go for duty and are replaced by another group. Most of them work as waiters, housekeepers, and engineers.
The union comprises workers from two hotels — Jaypee Vasant, New Delhi and Jaypee Siddharth New Delhi— of the company which boasts of five hotels across North India.
“All employees across the hotel (of the group) are facing problems,” said Bupinder Singh, who works in the food and beverages section in Jaypee Siddharth. But the protest is attended by only those who are part of the union.
Singh said since most of the workers are on fixed term contracts, if they join the union they are threatened that their contract will not be renewed the next year. “Our arrangement is permanent and hence we are with the union,” he said.
Sharma said the union has written letters to the Delhi government, including the Chief Minister, Lt Governor and the labour department, to apprise them about the plight of workers and sought action against the company. “There has been no response from the government yet,” he added.
“This is a crime under law but there has been no action against the company,” said Sharma.
Two weeks ago, the union filed an RTI (Right toInformation) application seeking information on the number of letters received by the government regarding the issues of these workers. The application asks the number of complaints registered against the company over unpaid dearness allowances for the period of lockdown and the actions taken over the complaints. The union is awaiting a response.
The writer is Delhi-based freelance journalist.
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