The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Ashoka’s contractual partner, Quess, has a history of violating labour laws

by Newsdesk Staff

Quess Corp, Ashoka University’s contractual partner in the employment of the housekeeping staff, came under fire last December when disgruntled contractual workers at an Apple factory in Bangalore went on a violent strike. An official labour audit found that Quess, along with two other workforce providers, violated a number of labour laws ranging from delayed payments to no compensation for extra work hours. “The practises in place with regard to payment of wages and overtime work, are not in line with the provisions of law,” the audit report noted.  

According to Reuters, the factory’s contractual partners did not maintain accurate salary and attendance records and failed to compensate workers for overtime. The audit also found that a glitch in an attendance machine kept workers from receiving their full wages. Reuters notes that the workers brought up their concerns with the management but no concrete action was taken. 

The Edict contacted Ashish Dhawan, founder of Ashoka University, who acquired a 1.1% stake in Quess Corp during the first national lockdown earlier last year. While he does not comment on labour violations by Quess at the Apple factory, he notes that “there is neither a question of influence nor conflict of interest” in relation to his investment. He adds that he is an “ordinary investor and holding no formal position in Quess.” Responding to whether he can use his position to amplify the workers’ concerns at Ashoka, he says that “Decisions about the day-to-day activities of Ashoka are taken by the ProVC (Admin) [sic] If requested by the administration, I and the other Trustees of Ashoka provide assistance on matters including strategy, governance, financial sustainability, fundraising and other matters.”

Quess told thirty-five members of the contractual staff at Ashoka that they will be transferred to different cities with short notice periods and no option to refuse. In light of Ashoka administration’s lack of response concerning workers’ issues, the student body organised a protest at the atrium on 9th November and put forth immediate demands. These include transparency from the VC and the withdrawal of a worker’s transfer. The long term demands are to revise worker contracts, establish a functional redressal system and ensure all workers at Ashoka be hired directly, as opposed to using third-party contractors. 

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