“They called us back on June 8 because the mall was opening, we came in and we cleaned the whole store. I even called my family back to Chandigarh, and the next day I get a call from HR asking me to hand in my resignation,” says a 35-year-old employee of a prominent retail brand who had worked as a salesman for the last eight years at Elante mall, before he was laid off. Like the 35-year-old, many other employees from prominent clothing and apparel retail stores in the mall have been asked to hand in their resignation.
With no other employment opportunities in retail, the sacked employees are hoping they will get called back to work once business picks up again.
Since the mall had been shut during the lockdown, storeowners had no steady income in the last three months, and continue to suffer losses even after the mall opened, since very few people are visiting these stores. Store owners have also had disagreements with the mall management over rent payment, with owners demanding their rent for the lockdown months be waived off and management seeking 50 per cent rent for the lockdown period from the owners.
“The employees who have been sacked now were working in big chain retails stores. These are shops which have turnover worth crores every year, and it was cruel for them to suddenly lay off so many people,” said another formal employee, who worked as a cashier at an apparel store.
The cashier stated that he received a call on June 9 stating that the company had suffered immense losses, and hence had to let go of some staff to sustain business.
At least thirty employees working for three big brands have been laid off within the last week, all of whom were told ‘company had suffered losses.’ Most of them were sacked only a day or two after being called back to work.
In the months during the lockdown, these employees suffered a salary cut between thirty per cent to fifty per cent with assurances from the company that their work will resume per usual post the lockdown. “With the salary cut at least we were able to survive somewhat, but now we are lost. It is a very difficult situation. My wife is eight months pregnant and her treatment is going on at the Civil Hospital in Sector 22, so I can’t even risk going back home to Karnal,” says the 35-year-old salesman.
The man has a five-year-old, whose school fees he has been unable to pay since April. He had taken his child and his pregnant wife back home to Karnal village during the lockdown and had decided to bring them back to Chandigarh when the mall reopened.
“If I even had an inkling that I would be laid off, I wouldn’t have brought my wife to Chandigarh, at least she would have been more comfortable back home. Now, because of her delicate health, we cannot go back to Haryana because we will have to take a Covid-19 test and renew treatment at a private hospital there which will take god knows how much money. Neither can I pay my house rent here,” he added.
Like the salesman, many others had returned from their homes from the neighboring states of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab hoping to resume work at the mall. Some of them had continued to pay rent in order to keep their accommodation in Chandigarh.
“I paid for rent for three months while I was back home in Palampur with my family because the landlord threatened to rent out the flat to someone else while we were out. Then I travel back all the way to Chandigarh, only to know I paid 18,000 rupees for three months to keep a house which I am probably never going to live in again,” says an employee from HP.
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