In an unprecedented move in the history of media history, on 3rd October, 2004, Hindustan Times had handed over pink slips to as many as 362 workers with immediate effect. As per the reports, many of those dismissed were with the company for more than 25 years and the sole bread earners of the family. Back then, the union had felt that the members were targeted as it has been, along with other unions elsewhere, for opposing the increasing trend in newspaper organisations to bring employees under the contract system.
However, they were told that,
“the ownership of the Printing Undertaking of the Hindustan Times Ltd. at H.T. House, has been transferred to and taken over by H.T. Media Ltd, w.e.f. 2nd October, 2004 under an Agreement dated 1st October, 2004. Since H.T. Media Ltd., while taking over the ownership of the Printing Undertaking, has decided not to take over the services of the workmen working in the Printing Undertaking.”
In September, 2005, one of the 362 retrenched employee, Mahendra, had committed suicide which had sparked a massive protest back then.
Last week, one more, 24th amongst those 362, died. For the past 13 years, Ravindra Singh, lived in a small tent across the Hindustan Times House protesting for justice those sacked back in 2004. The 62 year old from Himachal Pradesh was found dead on 12th October. No one has seen his family in last few years and had been fighting a lone legal battle with the company.
In January 2012, the Industrial Tribunal passed its final order terming the termination “illegal and unjustified.” It asked the management of HTL to “reinstate 272 workmen treating them in the continuity of service under terms and conditions of service” as before the termination.
The case related to the payment of back wages of these terminated employees is sub-judice and pending in the Supreme Court. However, the execution order for their reinstatement passed was in May 2016 by Additional District Judge Surinder S Rathi. He had asked HTL to execute the order of reinstatement within four weeks.
Earlier this year, Hindustan Times had shut down its editions overnight and tried to pass on the blame to demonetization. Many were forced to resign on the same day and work for two more weeks as HR processed the resignation letter. Later, some were even asked to contribute as freelancer with the publication. Last year in December, too, as many as 15 editorial employees, from both, Mint and Hindustan Times, were asked to put in their papers.
Even as Delhi Police tries to trace the family of the slain HT employee, the legal battle for the remaining continue.