Sanitation workers cannot “hold the city to ransom” by going on strike if they have been paid their salaries, Delhi High Court said on Friday after the municipal corporations claimed that the wages have been paid.
“If salaries have been paid, they cannot hold the city to ransom,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said and sought responses from the corporations and the unions of the sanitation workers on a PIL seeking calling off of the strike.
The bench also asked, “how do we know salaries have been paid,” and directed the corporations to respond with regard to the strikes called by teachers, doctors and nurses under their control and listed the matter for hearing on February 8.
“We are right now concerned about the third dimension, of hardship caused to citizens,” it said and asked whether Delhi government intended to enforce the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).
Senior standing counsel for Delhi government, Rahul Mehra, told the court that enforcement of ESMA had not been considered till now and thus, he would need to take instructions on the matter.
The bench, however, refused to pass any interim order declaring the strike as illegal, as was sought orally by the counsel for the corporations, saying that without hearing the workers’ union, “how can we declare strike as illegal”. The three corporations claimed they had received funds from Delhi government on Thursday and had immediately paid wages to the workers up to January.
However, the workers have now raised new demands like arrears of dearness allowance and other such perquisites, they said.
They also said that while the workers were on strike, garbage collection had been outsourced to private companies, but cleaning of streets was not being carried out. They said they have issued notices to their workers and also appealed to them to return to work, but there has been no response from them.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation claimed in the court that 40 per cent of its workers from two zones have returned to work and those still on strike were being marked absent and action would be taken against them.
Meanwhile, Delhi government told the court that while the corporations are taking a “hands-off approach”, it has deputed its public works department’s resources towards collection of garbage. It also said that even though it had released all the money that it was expected to give to the corporations, an additional sum of Rs 550 crore was also released.
The court was hearing the plea filed by Birender Sangwan seeking directions to the sanitation workers and corporations to call off the strike and ensure cleanliness in the city.