IL&FS arm asks expat employees in Kashmir to fly back home

ksenia kondratieva Mumbai | Updated on February 14, 2019

But they refuse to leave without getting their dues

IL&FS Transportation (ITNL) has told its expatriate employees in Kashmir that salaries due will be paid as soon as the financial constraints eases up. It has told them to proceed to their respective countries and to provide details of their flights home.

The communication from Srinagar Sonamarg Tunnelway Ltd came after BusinessLine published a story highlighting the plight of ITNL’s foreign employees working on the Zojila and Z-Morh tunnel projects.

According to the letter, seen by BusinessLine, the company is not liquid enough to pay the expats their dues.

“The Company has no malafide intention of withholding the payments of the employees and the delay in payments/dues is only due to the financial restraints being faced by the Company. As and when funds are made available to us, we will endeavour to discharge our liability to you,” the letter noted.

The company also asked expats to inform the HR department of the date of departure and submit the airline tickets “in order for us to intimate the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO)”.

Richard Christenson, one of the employees, told BusinessLine that he and his colleagues would not leave the country until their salaries are paid. “We have stayed loyal to the company and endured the extreme conditions including landslides, avalanches, no power for days, frozen water pipes, no heating, no communication, extremely dangerous roads and civil unrest, and have till today just been ignored,” Christenson said.

“We are not asking for charity, only what is legally due to us,” he added.

According to the affidavit submitted by the government before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) last week containing a list of IL&FS subsidiaries categorised based on their ability to service debt, Srinagar Sonamarg Tunnelway Ltd belongs to the “red” category comprising of entities that cannot meet any of their payment obligations, even those to senior secured financial creditors. The parent company of this SPV, ITNL, too is on the “red” list.

‘Tardy’ legal process

“This is not something new or extraordinary, this is a routine process in business. I sympathise with the employees, but our laws are robust. You have to go by the process of law,” Michael Dias, managing partner at Michael Dias & Associates, specialising in Employment Laws and Dispute Resolution, told BusinessLine.

There is no questions of employees losing their money as the promoters of the companies undergoing insolvency proceeding under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 do not “disappear into thin air”, he said. However, the time factor is an issue. “The process of law in India is very tardy, it takes its own time,” Dias admitted.

Stressing the need for a robust system to quickly resolve the issues of employees of insolvent companies, he said that such employees should get the first priority. Labour issues, he added, are not yet the focus of the IBC process.

Published on February 14, 2019

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