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Dangerous, says HC on MTC move to outsource crew

“Unions are always looked upon with contempt as if they exist to hamper smooth functioning, but it is untrue,” observed the judge

Dangerous, says HC on MTC move to outsource crew

Madras High Court

CHENNAI: Terming it a dangerous experiment that would toss out equality, the Madras High Court quashed the tender notification issued by the MTC to engage outsourced crew to operate its buses.

In her order, Justice R Hemalatha noted that the reservation followed in direct recruitment would take a back seat in the case of contractual employment through manpower agencies, as the contractors have no compulsion to implement the affirmative action measure.

“An inevitable consequence of outsourcing manpower is that when two categories of drivers are created, the equality enshrined in the Constitution goes for a toss,” she said, adding, “Having different salaries for different drivers is another form of discrimination and unfair labour practice; this dangerous experiment would have a cascading effect besides the discrimination aspect.”

Brushing aside MTC’s contention that labour unrest was a perennial problem it faced, the judge said, “It is essential to have a union like a strong opposition party in a democratic set up.” The conscience of the ruling party or the corporation management would always remain alert, said the court.

“Unions are always looked upon with contempt as if they exist to hamper smooth functioning, but it is untrue,” observed the judge.

The court also advised MTC to adopt a more transparent and easier process to recruit drivers instead of venturing into the outsourcing mode.

The matter reached the High Court after the Tamil Nadu State Transport Employees’ Federation, the trade union affiliated to the CITU moved the petition seeking to quash the notification that the government issued on September 30 to engage drivers and conductors through a manpower agency (outsourcing) for regular bus operations.

The union also sought directions to fill up the existing regular vacancies through the proper process as agreed upon in the settlement with the union.

Appearing for the union, advocate V Ajoy Khose pointed out that there were a large number of driver and conductor vacancies in the transport corporation. By adopting a new recruitment procedure of outsourcing the work to contractor by open auction, the management of the corporation has violated the terms of the mutual agreement, he said. It was also contended that such unhealthy practices would lead to labour unrest.

Appearing for the State government, Additional Advocate General (AAG) R Ramanlal argued that it was the government’s policy to outsource driver and conductor jobs in the light of the grim situation where the corporation has been facing shortage of crew. Many of the existing drivers and conductors were in prolonged absence and many buses were not being operated for want of drivers and conductors, contended the AAG.

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