Lady Hardinge HCWs approach Delhi HC against contractual hiring policy, challenge termination

New Delhi: Following a controversial contractual hiring policy of the Centre-run Lady Harding Hospital leaving more than 200 healthcare workers of the hospital in a lurch, these workers have now approached the Delhi High Court with a writ petition, which has been filed by the All India General Kamgar Union, on behalf of the Multi-Tasking Staff, who have now been asked to leave their positions after having performed COVID-19 duties over the last few months.

Millennium Post had on July 27 reported that the hospital's policy of changing contractors every six months had led to a situation where these healthcare workers were faced with the option of either having to leave their jobs or pay to retain them. With a new contractor set to come in from August, 208 MTS workers have been put on a list and asked to stop coming for work from July 31 onwards. 35 of them have already been terminated "illegally", according to the petition filed in the high court here.

The petition has made the Central government, Lady Hardinge Hospital and the workers' current contractor Jai Balaji Security Services as respondents and sought directions from the court that would allow them to keep their jobs. The petitioner prayed the court to issue directions to the Centre, so that Lady Harding Hospital and Jai Balaji can be directed to not terminate the services of these workers. Moreover, the petitioner also asked the court to direct both the hospital and the contractor to release any pending salaries along with praying that the court issue any further directions as it may seem appropriate in the matter.

"There are about 300 Multi Tasking Staff (MTS) engaged in respondent no. 2, the hospital, but only a few workers are being terminated and replaced by fresh contract workers. Such an act of the respondent hospital is not only illegal but harsh, considering the prevailing Corona crisis. It is not the case of the respondent hospital that they do not require workers as MTS," the petitioner argued.

MTS perform normal duties as office assistants but are also performing jobs of skilled staff and often dress patients, shift them from one ward to another and dispose of used protective gear. The petition also alleged that the workmen were asked to pay to retain their jobs. "We had to pay Rs 15,000 to the contractor to retain our job the last time," said Saurabh (name changed) who is working at the hospital.

"In March 2020 few workers were threatened for termination and their services were temporarily suspended for a few days, however later they joined again. Again in

July 2020, petitioner workmen are being threatened for termination w.e.f 31.07.2020," said the petition.

Moreover, the Union has also served a demand notice on behalf of the workers to the hospital and the contractor seeking that their jobs be reinstated and pending salaries be paid. Neither party has responded to the demand notice, served on July 26 and both are expected to file replies in court when the matter comes up for hearing.

The Union has also written to Delhi Labour Minister Gopal Rai, whose office has said they had received the complaint and had forward it to the concerned officials for necessary action. Meanwhile, the workers have decided to protest at the hospital on Thursday.

In a similar case, contractual workers of the Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital (RML) were paid two months pending salary on Wednesday, after which they temporarily suspended their agitation. "Most of the contractual workers are outsourced at the hospital. They had not received their salary for two months and were protesting for the same. However, it was released today," said Mukesh Sharma, a member of the Union at the hospital.

There are about 800 such workers who received their salary. "There are other grievances including no bonus and no proper distribution of minimum wage despite government's order," said Sharma.

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