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Indian coal workers successfully bargain for a wage raise

24 May, 2023Indian unions, including IndustriALL affiliates, have successfully negotiated with the Coal India management to secure a 19 per cent increase in pay and a 25 per cent increase in allowances.

The Joint Bipartite Committee on Coal Industry (JBCCI- XI) comprising central trade unions and management of Coal India Limited (CIL) signed the eleventh national coal wage agreement (NCWA- XI) on 20 May. The agreement is valid for a period of five years, starting from 1 July 2021. Around 280,000 permanent workers of CIL and its subsidiaries, and the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) will benefit from the agreement.

CIL currently employs 238,000 permanent workers and around 250,000 contract workers. The wages of contract workers are to be currently determined as per the 2018 recommendations of the High Power Committee, but the agreement calls for the constitution of a joint committee comprising unions and management representatives, to review the wages and social security benefits for contract workers.

Nathulal Pandey, general secretary of IndustriALL’s affiliate Hind Khadan Mazdoor Federation (HKMF) and a member of the JBCCI XI, says:

“We have been actively raising the issue of decent wages for contract workers in the wage negotiation process. We will see to it that the matter is taken up seriously in the joint committee, and provisions are made for effective implementation. Our fight will not end until all workers receive their due share.”

As per the agreement, management and unions will jointly undertake programmes on training and retraining of workers regarding the introduction of new technology. A standardization committee is to be set up to determine the job categories, including left-out jobs and new jobs created as a result of the introduction of new technology or machinery of higher capacity.

S Q Zama, secretary general of IndustriALL affiliate Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation (INMF) and a member of the JBCCI XI, says:

“INMF has been consistently raising the issue of Just Transition and climate change in all the meetings of Coal India, including JBCCI. We firmly believe that workers must be included in the discussions on energy transition in light of the country’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions.”

Until recently, INMF was not included in the wage negotiation process of the coal industry. The union participated in only the last two meetings of the JBCCI, after the Calcutta High Court ruled in favour of the union, directing CIL to allow the union’s participation in wage negotiation.

Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:

“IndustriALL salutes our Indian affiliates for successfully bargaining for the rights of Coal India workers. It was unfortunate that our affiliate INMF was not allowed to participate in the process until recently. We believe that companies must take the process of social dialogue seriously and include workers’ voices in all discussions.”