Housekeeping workmen to be considered as permanent employees: KA HC

Court orders restoration of services to workmen of state-owned company.

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In a recent development, the High Court of Karnataka has issued a verdict that housekeeping jobs are of a permanent nature and that workmen engaged in such jobs should be considered employees. Consequently, it has ordered the restoration of the services of several housekeeping workmen of Mysore Electrical Industries Limited (MEIL), a state-owned company.

The matter pertains to 2000 when Shankar Nursery and Associated Detective & Security Services, which had a contract with MEIL to provide housekeeping workmen, terminated their contract and withdrew 66 workmen from work. The dispute reached conciliation proceedings and the Labour Court, which ordered workers to be restored to service in 2011. However, the company challenged this decision in the High Court, which recently delivered its judgement.

The company argued that the housekeeping staff, who was involved in gardening, loading, and unloading, were contract labourers who worked for only a few hours each day. However, the HC dismissed this contention and held that the work profiles required day-to-day and long-term services, making them permanent in nature. Therefore, the HC rejected the company’s argument that the housekeeping workmen were contract labourers and upheld the Labour Tribunal’s decision.

In his judgement, Justice Suraj Govindaraj of the High Court stated that the alleged agreement between the employer and the contractor was a “sham and camouflage”, and that the workers had been engaged for an extended period. He further noted that the use of contract workers was merely a means to deprive them of their rightful earnings. Accordingly, the HC ordered the restoration of the services of the workmen and declared them to be employees of the petitioner. The company was instructed to regularise their services, subject to the availability of vacancies, and to give preference to members of the respondent-Union when vacancies arise. The HC also relaxed the conditions of maximum age and academic qualifications in the interest of justice.

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