Bombay HC allows manufacturing units to cut salaries of those who don’t report for work

Mumbai: Taking note of the fact that the Maharashtra government has relaxed lockdown rules in certain industrial regions in the state, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered all manufacturing units to pay full wages to workers who report for work. The High Court has also granted liberty to these units to deduct the salaries of those employees who do not attend work.

The bench of Justice Ravindra Ghuge passed the significant order while dealing with a clutch of petitions filed by manufacturers and other employers, challenging the March 29 orders of the Union government. The Union government, while invoking the Disaster Management Act of 2005, had ordered all employers and manufacturing units to pay full wages to their labourers or employees, considering the peculiar situation on account of coronavirus.

The manufacturers claimed that they would be unable to make payments as their work had been stalled. They had, however, offered to pay minimum 50 per cent of the wages to workers for the lockdown period.

During the course of the hearing, Justice Ghuge was informed that the Supreme Court is already seized of an identical issue and has issued notices to relevant authorities to respond. The Supreme Court has, however, not granted any interim relief.

Having heard the contentions, Justice Ghuge said, "I am of the view that since the apex court is dealing with a similar cause of action, I would not be inclined to interfere with the impugned order. But I would expect the manufacturers to pay the gross monthly wages to the employees, save and except conveyance and food allowance, if being paid on monthly basis, in the cases of those workers who are not required to report for duties."

The bench noted that the state has partially lifted the lockdown in certain industrial areas. "Thus, the workers would be expected to report for duties as per the shift schedules, subject to adequate protection from Coronavirus being provided by the employer," Justice Ghuge said.

"In the event such workers voluntarily remain absent, the management would be at liberty to deduct their wages for their absence, subject to the procedure laid down in law while initiating such action. This would apply even to areas where there may not have been a lockdown," Justice Ghuge clarified. The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on May 18.

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