IN a first major blow to the Pune Metro project, more than 150 employees have been on strike for the last three days over non-payment of their salaries for five or more months by a contracting firm. Metro officials said the speed of work has been affected as the firm had been facing problems in completing the allotted work.
The employees have been on an indefinite fast outside the Metro office in Vallabhnagar since June 1. Four of them were hospitalised, of which two have been discharged. Among those who have struck the work includes sub-contractors of the HCC Al Fara’a Infraprojects Pvt Ltd.
Protesting employees said the companies owe dues in lakhs to each of them. Amol Khade, one of those on the fast, said he has not been paid salary for five months. Another employee Akshay Bhosale said he was waiting dues worth Rs 6 lakh. The contractor of Newtech Hydraulic Equipment said the company owed them Rs 10 lakh for excavation work. “In all, the HCC owes us more than Rs 1 crore,” said an employee.
Pune Metro Managing Director Brijesh Dixit said the work has slowed down because of the problems faced by HCC. “The work has been affected but we are trying to make up by appointing alternative contractors,” said Dixit.
He said a penal action against HCC has been started in this regard. “We have forfeited their bank guarantee for slow speed of work, non-performance and non payment of salaries to employees. We are also taking other actions against them,” Dixit said.
Asked whether there was an error in appointing the firm, Dixit said all due process, including floating of global tenders, was followed before appointing the firm. “HCC is a reputed company but is apparently facing fund problem. But we can’t wait for them to get their act right, we have initiated action against them,” he added.
A Metro spokesperson said they have held several rounds of discussions with HCC officials, who told them that they were unable to clear the dues as their funds were stuck with other projects.
Anil Birajdar, project manager of HCC, however, said that employees’ claim of dues of over five months was not true. “We have paid four months of dues. Only one month’s dues are remaining, for which we have sought some time. We will clear all the dues,” he said.
Birajdar said since the project scope of the company has come down, they had to cut down some of their employees. “Among those who are on fast include employees who were removed by us,” he said.
Birajdar said world over infrastructure companies are facing problems. “We too have faced financial crisis but are trying to resolve it,” he said, adding that they will soon clear all the pending dues.