NMMC obliged to pay increased wages to contract labourers: Bombay High Court

Mumbai: Observing that the civic body was under obligation to ensure the city is kept “clean and hygienic” the Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to pay off the increased wages to its 910 labours employed on contract, to pick up waste in the planned city.

A division bench of Justices Rajendra Savant and Makarand Karnik pulled up the NMMC for refusing to pay the wages to these labourers.  “It is the responsibility of the NMMC, as a principal employer to see to it that its agent is not put to financial distress. It is also required to ensure that the contract labour which is engaged in the collection of solid waste, is kept satisfied so that there is no unrest and thereby the city is kept clean and hygienic,” Justice Savant ruled.

The bench was seized with a batch of pleas filed by the union of labourers picking up solid waste in Navi Mumbai and also their contractor.  All these labourers were appointed by the NMMC after their contractor won the tender invited way back in 2014. The civic body in its agreement with the contractor of these 910 labourers, had initially agreed to pay them as per the minimum wages prescribed under the Wages Act.

After the agreement was enacted and the labourers started working on field, the government had in 2015 issued a notification increasing the wages to be paid to contract labourers in all the municipal corporations across Maharashtra. Despite this being notified in 2015, the NMMC learnt of the same only in January 2016. Subsequently, the general body of NMMC passed two resolutions, resolving to pay contract workers of all the departments as per the increased wages notified by the government.

The resolutions were implemented in case of 91 contractors but the benefit was not extended to this particular contractor, who had 910 labourers both skilled and unskilled.  When the contractor enquired of this disparity, the civic body did not give a clear answer. In fact, the civic body even did not followed the directions of the government which had asked it to pay the wages as its 2015 notification.

Having considered the contentions, Justice Savant said, “The refusal of the civic body for not taking into consideration the recommendations of the government are unjustifiable. We therefore, find the action of NMMC as arbitrary and discriminatory.” The bench accordingly directed the civic body to pay the wages as per the renewed amount, by the government. It also asked the contractor and also the union of the workers not to go on strike.

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