CHENNAI:Two former lift operators at Ampa Skywalk mall, who are persons with disabilities, approached a labour court on Thursday, alleging that they had been illegally terminated from service without being given any reason. While both had disability in walking, one of them had paralysis.
K S Devaseelan and A Gajapathy, having worked in the mall for nearly three years, claimed that they were compelled to submit resignation letters in February last. “All of a sudden, they had asked them to write a letter saying that they are resigning due to personal reasons. They were unduly coerced,” said advocate Rajeni Ramadass, who is representing the case on behalf of the two men. She said the termination was done without giving notice to them and they have pleaded in the court to reinstate the two in their posts and to pay wages for the period that they were under the termination.
However, when contacted by Express, an official of the mall said that the two persons had resigned voluntarily and by the time they approached them again seeking a job, the posts were filled.
Both the workers and management officials said they attended the reconciliation session by the Labour Commissioner and it was unfruitful.
With help of Disability Legislation Unit of Vidya Sagar, an NGO working for the welfare of people with disabilities, the two filed a case in the labour court.
“Conciliation talks were arranged by the Labour Commissioner between the staff and management,” explained Ramadass. “The management appeared only for a few hearings. The Labour Commissioner gave a failure report wherein it said that the settlement talks were not fruitful. After that, we have approached the Labour Court.”
Smitha Sadasivan, coordinator of the Disability Legislation Unit of Vidya Sagar said, “The vulnerability of the staff, that is, their disabilities have been used by the mall authorities to their advantage. This is sheer discrimination as per the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as the ILO 2002 Code of Practice: Managing Disability at Workplace.”
The management of Ampa Skywalk denied that any coercion was used. “They resigned on their own,” said M Alagappan, admin manager at the mall. “Everything was settled and their dues were paid. After encashing, they returned to us seeking reemployment but by then the posts were filled.”
However, both Gajapathy and Devaseelan asserted that apart from it being an illegal termination of employment, the organisation did not adhere to the contract either as it did not give them a month’s notice.
“It was all done in such a hurry. One day we had a job and the next day, we were jobless. My wife is now working at an export firm and is supporting my family. I haven’t been able to get any job and in the bargain my family is suffering,” said Devaseelan
“The management threatened us to resign,” said Gajapathy. “They warned us that if we signed on the papers and listened to them, we would get some of the benefits but if we did not listen to them, we would get nothing. In 2006, I suffered a paralytic attack which made me lose my earlier job. When I started working at Ampa, I thought things would get better but then everything changed last year.”
When asked how his family is making ends meet, Gajapathy revealed that his wife has started cleaning utensils and doing odd jobs. “My son is 22 years old and is training to become a two-wheeler mechanic. I could not send him for higher studies. When I don’t have enough money for food, how can I think of education?” His 13-year-old daughter is studying with the help of money from a Trust.