Coal workers in West Bengal fight for better wages and oppose privatisation and imposition of contract system at Eastern Coal fields Limited

 

Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent

 

A bitter struggle is going on in Eastern Coalfields between the management and the workers. The management is trying to reduce the permanent workforce and trying to outsource the mining operations to contractors.

Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL) a subsidiary of Coal India employed about 1,82,000 workers in the 1990’s and now the workforce has come down to 52,000.

In order to maintain 100% production, ECL is outsourcing its mining operations to its partners who employ contract workers. The contract workers are employed in open cast mines at Bansra and Searkuli coalfields.

According to Biju Yadav of the Bansra area, who is a member of Colliery Mazdoor Sabha there are about 70% contract workers and they work for 12 hours. Coal India on the other hand claims that there are 2.5 lakh permanent workers and 75,000 contract workers.

After prolonged struggle by unions, Coal India constituted a high powered committee in 2013 and gave recommendation for augmentation of wages for contract workers.

In 2018, the second high-powered committee was constituted, which recommended further enhancement of the wages of the contract coal workers of the subsidiaries of Coal India. However, no recommendation has been implemented. The contractors continue to pay meagre wages to four categories of workers in the collieries.

Wages for contract workers recommended by the two High Power Committees that have not been implemented even after 9 years.

 

*Including VDA (variable dearness allowance) added in 2022

 

Even these wages are not paid by the Contractors as they mention different wages on paper than what they pay the workers.

According to the new wage agreement, contract workers can be members of CMPF and are eligible for medical benefits but contact workers are not getting these benefits.

As per the law, contract workers are not supposed to be used for any work of regular nature which means they cannot be used for production. Yet Coal India and most other public sector enterprises are resorting increasingly to outsourcing of production to contractors. This leads to big reduction in strength of permanent workers which is what we have already witnessed in Eastern Coalfields.

Coal workers are fully justified in opposing outsourcing of the production and demanding payment of full wages to existing contract workers as per the recommendations of Coal India’s own committees.

 

 

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