DOT Institute’s webinar on wages during the lockdown

Wage issues facing the print industry

Uday Dhote, director of DIGC

Mumbai’s DOT Institute of Graphic Communication (DIGC) recently conducted a webinar on 24 June 2020 to discuss payment of wages during the lockdown. DIGC invited advocate Mahesh Shukla, an expert in labor laws and advisor to important government institutions and companies, to talk about the Supreme Court order on payment of wages during the lockdown.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown have changed the way we work. The lockdown first imposed on 25 March for three weeks was extended several times till June. Selective relaxations were announced in mid-May. Despite further ‘unlockings,’ the economy is not fully functioning with significant sectors such as mass transport in large cities still dysfunctional.

Shutting down the economy slowed the growth in many sectors, with MSMEs especially hard hit. The print industry, which falls in the MSME sector, has seen a considerable slowdown. With businesses at a standstill resulting in a further liquidity crisis, the payment of wages during lockdown became contentious. This was compounded by the order passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act 2005 dated 29 March 2020, directing employers to pay the wages to their workers for the lockdown period, leading to chaos.

This order was challenged in the Supreme Court by several organizations since there has been confusion regarding employers’ responsibility to pay wages of their employees during the lockdown period. Subsequently, through the interim order of 4 June 2020, it was announced that no coercive action would be taken against employers.

The 24 June webinar moderated by Uday Dhote, director – DIGC, started with a brief presentation offering a detailed genesis of the order and touching upon its salient features, followed by Q&A session. The webinar saw participants from across India — mostly owners and promoters and human resources professionals.

Since the interim order is advisory, with the final judgment expected in end-July, DIGC has promised the participants another session on the subject.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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