Former employees accuse Sachiin Joshi of non-payment of dues, actor denies claims

Mumbai, May 8 (PTI) Thirty former employees of actor-producer Sachiin Joshi's company Viiking Ventures have alleged non-payment of salaries amounting to Rs 31 lakh which they claim they haven't received even months after quitting, charges that the actor has dismissed as 'arm-twisting tactics'.

According to former employees, Viiking Ventures, of which Joshi is the chairman, and its digital media wing, Think Tank, withheld salaries from as early as March 2019.

They also claim that the management is not responding to their queries about the non-payment of their dues.

Taskeen Naik, who had joined as the social media head and public relations officer in April 2018, said she is owed salary for two months. She quit her job in May 2019.

'When I raised the issue with him (Joshi) personally, he blocked me. I mailed him as well as the HR who told me they have some fund issues as they're going through a crisis. Then even that communication stopped. It has been a year and they're just ignoring us,' Taskeen told PTI.  Ganapathy Ramachandran, who joined Think Tank as a creative director in May 2019, quit the company in December the same year. He claimed the company is yet to pay his salary of three months.

'They were saying that they intend to pay. But there are 30 former employees who are owed around 30 lakhs in total. They all joined and quit at different times. Some people's salaries are due for almost two years,' Ramachandran claimed.

In an interview with PTI, Joshi said he is an entrepreneur who takes care of 'over a 1000 families' and won't accept 'arm-twisting tactics of disgruntled employees.' The actor said Viiking Ventures had acquired Tugboat and rechristened it Thinktank, where the deal was that 'they would be self-sufficient in terms of revenue and we would give them the umbrella and infrastructural support.' However, there was an issue of fraud, the actor claimed, and the CEO was sacked, following which 'the employment of all those hired in the said period of time came under scrutiny.' 'The matter is under investigation. I have also given them a letter which also states that those who are clear will be fully paid to clearly express my intent. But arm-twisting me using media on a matter in court is not something we would bow down to. The courts will decide and we will surely abide,' the actor added.

The former employees said they had submitted a claim to Chief Labour Commissioner early March but the process has come to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Krishna Choudhary who worked as a senior marketing manager from 2018 to 2019, said he is awaiting his salary of four months.

'Joshi had mailed us regarding the delay in payment last year and had mentioned that by the end of March 2019, all pending salaries will be cleared and by first week of May, our April salary would also come through and then it'll be a continues process,' he said.

In the mail, which Joshi had sent to the employees on March 26, 2019, the actor requested the staff to 'have continued faith in the organisation' and asked for a 'little more time to fix this problem permanently.' But Joshi said the mail the employees are citing was 'to communicate intent of payment post investigation.' 'I am taking care of a 1000 families, literally. Why are a handful not paid? There must be a reason. For a bunch of people, whom we tried hard to keep on board to take care of a loss making company that had a chain of frauds, I can say this reputation tarnishing exercise could well be their best work,' he added.

The former employees said they were not aware of any such 'investigation' and claiming it to be just an attempt to 'buy more time.' They said while the actor is stepping up to help people affected with COVID-19, they should also be paid for the work they did.

'Help as many people as you can, we don't have any issue, but please pay us too. We have been struggling for the past one year and there's no clarity,' Taskeen said. PTI JUR RB BK BK