Can the workmen engaged by the contractor recover their unpaid wages from the principal employer, if the contractor fails to make the payment ? Whether it will make any difference, if the contractor and the principal employer are registered under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act?
In this connection, a reference is made to a decided case where a dispute has arisen between the employees engaged by a contractor who did not pay their wages and the employees flied their claim for their unpaid wages against the management of Indian Airlines. The management contended that the Central Government has refused to make a reference for adjudication under section 10(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act and as such their application under section 33C(2) of the Act was not maintainable. However, the Labour Court accepted and allowed the application of the workers of the contractor and held that the application was maintainable. The High Court also upheld the contentions of the employees holding that there is no specific provision under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act to ensure the payment of wages to the workmen employed by the contractor and as such the workmen had rightly claimed their wages due to them by moving an application under section 33C(2) of the Industrial Disputes Act. It was further provided that section 21 (4) of the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act also provides that in case the contractor fails to pay the wages, the principal employer is responsible to make the payment of wages and also the contract labour employed by the contractor can claim wages either from the contractor or from the principal employer to pay wages to the employees, engaged by the contractor is recognized in section 21(4) of, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. Thus if the contractor fails to pay wages to his employees engaged by him the principal employer will be liable to pay the same.
Indian Airlines v.s. Presiding Officer, labour Court & others, 1988 Lab. IC 818 (Delhi HC). - Cominco Binant Zinc Ltd. vs. Pappachan, 1989 LLR 123 (Ker.HC).
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