Money & Banking

More IL&FS staff in Ethiopia claim wages not paid for 6-8 months; refuse to return

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on September 18, 2020 Published on January 21, 2019

IL&FS is scrambling to secure the release of four Indian employees being held hostage in Ethiopia   -  File photo

4 employees remain hostage of local staff; they also haven’t got salaries since July 2018

In a new twist to the IL&FS crisis in Ethiopia, more Indian employees have come out claiming that the company has not paid salaries to them for the last 6-8 months. These employees are now refusing to come back to India until they are paid.

This comes up even as IL&FS is scrambling to secure the release of four Indian employees being held hostage in Ethiopia.

Obscure plights

Of the 44 Indians working for IL&FS’ Ethiopian joint venture ITNL-Elsamex, 36 were called back to India and none of them have been paid their salaries since July 2018, said an employee at the Nekemte project, who is staying back in Ethiopia to fight for his salary which has been pending from the time he joined in April. “We feel that the management is more interested in bringing us back to India than wanting to pay our salaries. They just want to save themselves from the PR issue,” he said.

Of the eight Indian employees still remaining in Ethiopia, four are being held hostage at the Bure camp since November 24. However, the plight of the other Indian employees working in Addis, which is 500 km from Bure, had remained relatively obscure. They are Rajesh, Chandrasekhar Chamarthi, Bhargav Bezawada and Nagababu Konakanchi.

To add to their trauma, three of them were arrested on December 3 for defaulting on tax payments by the ITNL-Elsamex JV. Two of them were acquitted on December 28. While the third is out on bail, he remains under prosecution with his immigration blocked.

“Our employer, ITNL, did not pay the payroll taxes for the last 12 months and in Ethiopia, employees (general manager) are prosecuted for tax payment default,” one of the employees said.

They were kept in prison for about 10 days and allowed to stay in the guest house and work in the office under police custody for about 16 days, one of them said. Even after their acquittal, the police did not release their passports until January 15.

“After two of us got back our passports, the company asked us to come back to India. When we refused to go without proper salary commitment, they sent us termination letters (on January 19). They are trying to intimidate us with a disclaimer about our safety in Ethiopia. There is still no confirmation of our salary dues,” one of the employees said.

The company had arranged for their travel back to India for January 21. He said that the company is now using the excuse that the government-appointed auditors are not allowing them to pay salaries to any of ITNL’s subsidiaries or their JVs.

Management excuse

“The management says they will only pay us when they are able to raise any money in Ethiopia, either from the clients or by monetising (liquidating) the machinery, which may take a very long time and there is no guarantee if they would ever able to pay our salaries,” he said.

Meanwhile, the other four employees, who have been held hostage by local staff, are still waiting for their release. They also haven’t been paid their salaries since July 2018.

“We have only got false promises and constant lies by our management about our salaries. I have missed my sister’s marriage only because of the misdeeds and mismanagement of ILFS-ITNL-Elsamex,” said one of the stranded employees.

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Published on January 21, 2019
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