On February 10, the High Court in eastern India’s Kolkata ruled in favor of the participation of the Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation (INMF), affiliated to one of the central trade unions—the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)—in the coal industry wage negotiation process.
This ruling has been seen as a victory by unionists in the State of West Bengal. “This is a big victory for us. To keep us out of the wage negotiation process was a political decision. We have been struggling for the past two years to be part of the committee,” the secretary general of INMF, SQ Zama said.
Every five years, a Joint Bipartite Committee on Coal Industry (JBCCI) is constituted, which comprises members of management and central trade unions, with an agenda to finalize the National Coal Wage Agreement (NCWA). This committee is tasked with decision-making on issues pertaining to social security concerning workers in the coal industry.
However, as per the directions of the Coal Ministry, the eleventh JBCCI was constituted in 2021, but the INMF was not a part of it.
The exclusion of the mineworkers’ body was met with widespread rejection from workers and the union challenged the decision by Coal India, a public sector company under the Coal Ministry.
This month the court finally passed a judgment in favor of the union, and directed Coal India to permit the INMF to participate in the forthcoming committee meetings.
Mine workers have been jubilant following the judgment that allows union presence in negotiations, which is the outcome of a months-long struggle by the union. As reported by NewsClick, there are around 600 mining establishments spread over 82 mining areas in India, employing some 550,000 employees, a large number of whom work as contract or casual workers.
According to IndustriALL, the National Coal Wage Agreement determines the wages of non-executive employees as well as the wages of contract workers in Coal India and its subsidiaries and the Singareni Collieries Company.