At the national mining conference on 2 – 3 August, Indian mining unions decided to intensify efforts to improve safe working conditions, protect the rights of precarious workers and called for a Just Transition when combatting climate change.
Mining union representatives from different subsidiaries of Coal India Limited (CIL) and National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) took part in the two-day mining conference, discussing challenges faced by mine workers like unions’ response to climate change and the commodity crisis.
Union members expressed concerns that precarious workers with meager wages and poor working conditions are replacing large numbers of permanent jobs. Unions in CIL have signed a joint agreement to protect the interests of precarious workers in mining areas. However implementation of the agreement is proving to be a major challenge and unions are working hard for its implementation.
Inadequate health and safety is a major concern for mine workers and IndustriALL regional secretary Apoorva Kaiwar called on the unions to intensify efforts to improve safe working conditions in mines.
Participating unions resolved to launch a joint campaign for the adoption of ILO Convention 176 on safety and health in mines. Mining plays a large role in India’s national economy and the country has yet to ratify the convention.
Concerns were raised that CIL and NMDC managements are not holding adequate consultation or sharing information with unions on technological changes, outsourcing and climate change mitigation efforts which will have huge implications for mine workers. Management should consult with unions and listen to their views when implementing corporate social responsibility policies.
Speaking about the implication of Paris agreement on climate change, S Q Zama, secretary general of Indian National Mine Workers’ Federation (INMF), said that mine workers in India need to ensure a Just Transition protecting their interests. He also explained various aspects of a charter of demand submitted jointly by five central trade unions for a national coal wage agreement and said that negotiations with the government will start soon.
Regarding the proposed diversification plans of CIL, the largest state owned coal producer in India, unions said that given the sluggish demand for coal diversification is necessary. Unions must be consulted in the process to protect workers’ interests. They also called for more investments from the government on power generation, clean coal technologies and coal liquefaction.