Employees of Everest Business concepts

Gangtok: More than 80 employees at Everest Business Concepts Private Limited, based in Gangtok with a parent company in Haridwar, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, are accusing the company of wrongful termination and of withholding their salaries. The employees held a press conference on Wednesday, claiming that the company was operating illegally and refusing to honor their agreement to pay three months’ worth of salaries.

Speaking to the media, one of the employees revealed, “The company had been in operation for two years until August 22 when it was raided by the Sikkim Police on suspicion of running online gaming and gambling activities. While the company’s assets were seized, no arrests were made. Surprisingly, the company had obtained a license from the State Urban Development Department, and it had been renewed on two occasions.”

Regarding their job roles, one of the employees stated, “Most of us worked as card dealers and online gaming conductors, but we were unaware that these activities were illegal. This crucial information was not disclosed when we were hired, nor was it mentioned in our employment contracts.”

The employees explained that they were abruptly removed from the company’s WhatsApp group starting from August 22. “Initially, we were told that the company would reopen on August 31, and we were hopeful of receiving our salaries. However, without consulting us, the company made an internal agreement, promising us payment for two months only. When we insisted on receiving three months’ worth of salaries as per the company’s policy, or at least one lump sum payment, they refused to take our calls,” another employee stated.

In a desperate attempt, some of the employees filed a general diary at the Sadar Police Station in Gangtok on September 14, but this did not lead to any resolution. “They insisted on paying us on a salary basis, but without any employees, how can they do that? They have been inconsistent in their statements, making different promises on different occasions. We did not agree with this unilateral agreement, as it should have been discussed with the employees, but instead, they presented us with a 3-4 page agreement. We were not allowed to communicate with third parties, file police complaints, or pursue legal action as per the termination agreement,” noted another employee.

Another employee highlighted that the terminated employees were being charged 24 percent interest on the promised payment. They also revealed that although the company had promised monthly salary payments through checks or bank transfers, most of the payments were made in cash. During the initial six months, employees received a salary of Rs. 10,000 under the pretext of On-The-Job Training. After completing six months, they were provided with appointment letters, which included a stipulation that they could not leave the company for the next two years while earning a monthly salary of Rs. 15,000.

The employees emphasised, “The company’s owners are absent, claiming they cannot come. If the company no longer exists, why are they withholding our salaries? If it’s salary-based, we should still be considered employees. Many of us were promised promotions, salary increases, and Diwali bonuses in the upcoming months. If they want to follow the company’s policies, we will do the same. We will consult with legal counsel and negotiate an agreement.”

The employees also revealed that some individuals were individually persuaded to accept the agreement, with around 10 of them eventually signing it. “The company informed us, the old employees, that nothing could be done, urging us to find other jobs or appeal to the government. Some of us are college graduates, some have families depending on our salaries, and others are still students. We were shown a vision for the future. We did not receive any termination letters; instead, we were verbally terminated through a WhatsApp group.”

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The employees have demanded that their salaries be paid within the next 10 days in one lump sum, as they originally requested. Alternatively, if the payments are made in installments, they are demanding monthly reviews and festive bonuses. The last salary received by the employees was for the month of August. “We are optimistic that this address will bring us justice, or else we will take the matter to court,” the employees declared.

Also Read | Sikkim: CAP stages dharna in Gangtok over OFOJ employee termination

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