Money & Banking

IL&FS yet to pay salaries to 44 employees of Ethiopian JV

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on September 18, 2020

IL&FS also remains silent on the fate of the lone Indian employee, Chandrasekhar Chamarthi, who is still stranded in Ethiopia. File photo   -  REUTERS

The four Indian employees returned to India on February 24

IL&FS may have finally secured the release of its four Indian captive employees in Ethiopia, but the ITNL-Elsamex JV imbroglio is still marred by the plight of its 44 employees. IL&FS hasn’t paid their salaries yet, despite repeated assurances from the company.

One of the employees tried to commit suicide due to the non-payment of salaries, and the consequent piling up of debts. Thirty-six haven’t been paid their salaries since July 2018, while four haven’t been paid since May 2018, and another four since April, said an employee at the Nekemte project in Addis Ababa.

“Now that MCA/NCLT is taking up the resolution of Indian companies only, the fate of overseas companies that can’t meet operating expenses like salaries is uncertain, especially Indian expatriate employees who worked or are still working in those companies,” he said.  According to a PTI report citing the Solicitor General of India, out of IL&FS’ 302 companies, 169 companies are incorporated in India and the remaining 133 are outside India.

IL&FS did not respond to queries sent.

The company had told the employees that part-payment of salaries till August 2018 would be made once the four employees held hostage in Ethiopia returned to India. The four Indian employees returned to India on February 24. This is even as IL&FS met the additional months’ salary demand of the Ethiopian employees to secure the release of the four held hostage for over three months. “The IL&FS management assured us the disbursement of salaries up to August 2018, within seven days post the return of the four captives back to India. But, just like all the other promises, this one also remains unfulfilled,” said an employee, who did not wish to be named.

The employees that BusinessLine reached out to did not want their identities revealed lest their comments trigger a backlash from IL&FS and delay their salaries further. They are aggrieved by the non-payment of salaries and the assurances that haven’t brought about any positive development yet.

One of the employees had called up a senior official at the company to enquire about the salaries, only to be told that the company does not have money for making the part-payment of salaries.

BusinessLine had reported, when this issue of salaries came to light on January 21, that the company was using the excuse that the new board members of IL&FS are not allowing them to pay salaries to any of ITNL’s subsidiaries or their join ventures.

“Even if we’re not employees of ITNL, the joint venture itself is co-owned by ITNL’s subsidiary (Elsamex), which makes ITNL itself the absolute owner of the JV entity. Floating multiple companies within the group might have benefited them in other ways,  but using this kind of legal isolation against employee salary payment is inhuman and unjust,” one of the employees said.

Fate of an employee

IL&FS also remains silent on the fate of the lone Indian employee, Chandrasekhar Chamarthi, who is still stranded in Ethiopia, even as the company announced how it had helped secure the release of the other four employees held hostage in Ethiopia.

Chamarthi remains under prosecution, though he is out on bail. Chamarthi and two other employees in Addis Ababa were arrested for defaulting on tax payments by the ITNL-Elsamex JV. The two other employees were later sent back to India. These three employees worked about 500 km from Bure, where the other four employees were held hostage.

“We request the IL&FS’ new board to own all of the Indian employees and give equal priority to their salaries – all those who worked or are working in any of IL&FS’ Indian or overseas group companies, subsidiaries and joint ventures,” said one of the employees.

Published on March 06, 2019

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