The Right to Information (RTI) Act was intended to bring transparency in governance, but its effective use has enabled employees of private contractor executing work of Pune Municipal Corporation get their financial dues as per labour laws.
In addition, the State Information Commissioner in a significant order that is likely to have implications on all local civic bodies has ruled that PMC is a “principal employer” for all its work carried out through private contractors as per the law and has to keep records of the workers with the contractor carrying out its work.
PMC had given the contract to Surat-based Enviro Control Associates (India) Pvt Ltd for constructing sewage treatment plant near Bhairoba Pumping Station. However, the aggrieved employees fighting for their rights approached lawyer Ajay Patil to represent them in the Labour Court so as to get all the dues as per the labour laws. Patil along with lawyers, Sachin Palse and Y P Hadadare, applied to PMC under the RTI Act, seeking information related to salary, Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and
Employees State Insurance (ESI) given to the workers by the contractor.
They pointed out that the PMC as a principal employer holds responsibility of ensuring all financial benefits as per the labour law are delivered to the workers of private contractor executing its project.
PMC furnished incomplete information in the beginning and later submitted the contractor’s reply of all the provisions of labour law being complied by it. Patil filed an appeal with the Information Commissioner of Pune division saying the information furnished to him by PMC was incorrect and contradictory to that obtained from Provident Fund (PF) office from Surat.
Though, the issue of contractors complying to labour laws and giving all financial benefits to its employees does not come under RTI Act, State Information Commissioner (Pune division) Vijay Kuwalekar in his order said, “It is the responsibility of the PMC as principal employer to keep all records pertaining to employees of private contractor executing its development project and non-availability of information sought under RTI amounts to refusal of information.”
Meanwhile, PMC officers during the hearing admitted that the civic body has the responsibility to ensure the contractor has complied to labour laws while giving dues to the employees engaged in the PMC work, but have not implemented it so far. However, officials submitted that they will ensure that workers with the private contractor get all the financial benefits as per the labour law.
The Information Commissioner ruled that responsibility for delay in furnishing the information sought under RTI will be of the municipal corporation and not the Public Information Officer (PIO). It directed the PMC to recover Rs 25,000 as penalty from the private contractor for delay in furnishing information.
To ensure that the employees get the financial dues, the PMC withheld the last payment of Rs 45. 20 lakh to the contractor as per the SIC directions and later disbursed Rs 10.5 lakh from it as financial benefits to the workers. As many as 39 workers received financial benefits ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 52,000.
The PMC submitted that it would start implementing the maintenance of record of workers working with private contractors executing the PMC projects as brought to the notice by SIC.
Re: Workers with private contractors can raise a toast
This is a very important decision and good for future citations in cases related to Government agencies/ departments carrying out works through contractors.
Apart from being the sole employer and the consequent responsibilities, applicants can also use this citation in getting all information about the contractors working from the PA....like quality of work, delay in work, penalty on delay, employment of child labour, etc...
Can someone help by putting up the full decision of the Maharashtra SIC.