By Narendra Sharma
NEW DELHI: A million coalmine workers extract coal even from the depths of coalmines day-after-day to ensure that the country is able to meet its energy needs. Coal happens to be the main source of energy for India’s industrial economy.
Like all other working people, coalminers, working in the harshest possible conditions, have their problems too, which deserve to be taken care of, so that they keep working undeviatingly. But, the coalmine managements and the ruling elite often ignore coalmen’s problems, unless they are able to muster enough strength to force the issue.
This is what has also been happening with the coalminers’ case, after the expiry of the National Coal Wage Agreement (NCWA)-VIII. The UPA II Government and its Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) had worked out a new strategy to curtail PSU workers’ rights when negotiations for fresh wage agreements started. PSU managements were asked to ensure that unions agree in advance that any fresh wage settlement would remain valid for a period of 10 years. Previously, wage settlements used to have five-year life-span.
All PSU unions initially refused to accept this precondition. As a result, the PSU managements kept delaying fresh wage negotiations. All coalmen unions of all affiliations also rejected this pre-condition. The various PSU workers’ unions had to evolve their respective measures to unify workers for struggle, if it became necessary, to force the management to start wage negotiations.
There was however a vital difference between the Coal Industry and most other public sector undertakings, the former being the source of the nation’s much needed energy. The authorities as well as unions in the coal Industry knew it. The last National Coal Wage Agreement-VIII had ended on June 30, 2011, requiring negotiations for the NCWA-IX to start.
In this backdrop, when Joint Committee of Coalmen unions threatened to go on a three-day nationwide Coal Industry strike in November-December 2011, on the demand for Bonus, the managements conceded the Bonus demand and at the same time agreed to set up the Joint Wage Negotiating Committee comprising representatives of coalmen unions affiliated to INTUC, BMS, HMS, AITUC and CITU, for negotiating the NCWA-IX. Eventually, the negotiations concluded and the National Coal Wage Agreement-IX was signed half an hour before midnight of January 31, 2012. The NCWA-IX became retrospectively effective from July 1, 2011.
The Scope and Coverage clause of the Agreement says : The Agreement shall be called National Coal Wage Agreement-IX and will be effective from 1.7.2011 to 30.6.2016 (This means for a five-year span). Further: This Agreement shall cover all categories of employees in the Coal Industry who were covered under National Coal Wage Agreements I to VIII and also employees of those establishments which are functioning and may be functioning under the Coal Companies.
Minimum Wage: The minimum wage for the lowest paid employees on surface in the Coal Mining Industry covered by the Agreement has been fixed at Rs 17,565.93 per month or Rs 675.61 per day at the All India Average Consumer Price Index Number for Industrial Workers (Base=100) at 4245. It may be mentioned that this amount includes the Minimum Guaranteed Budget of Rs 3513.19 per month or Rs 135.12 per day.
The coalminers’ Minimum Wage is said to be the highest compared to workers of other public sector enterprises. This is certainly an achievement of coalminers, which is bound to enthuse workers of all other public sector enterprises in due course.
It is equally important to know and understand what different elements go to make coalminers Minimum Wage so that one understands what are their gains which are specifically due to miners’ working conditions. For instance, Basic Wage, Special DA, Variable DA are available in every PSU, but, Attendance Bonus or the Minimum Guaranteed Benefit appear typical to coalminers. And, together all these constitute the Minimum Wage of coalminers.
The breakup of Minimum Wage of coalminers under the Agreement is as follows:
Daily Basic Wage increased from Rs 321.54 to Rs 604.33 while Monthly Basic Wage increased from Rs 8,360.00 to Rs 15,712.62; likewise, Daily Attendance Allowance (10 per cent of Basic Wage) increased from Rs 32.15 to Rs 60.43 and monthly increased from Rs 836.00 to Rs 1571.26; Daily Special DA increased from Rs 5.77 to Rs 10.85 and monthly from Rs 150.06 to Rs 282.05; Variable DA remained same daily at Rs 181.03 and monthly Rs 4706.74; the Minimum Guaranteed Benefit also remained same daily at Rs 135.12 and monthly at Rs 3513.19.
Underground Allowance: The underground allowance shall be payable from February 1, 2012 at 2.5 per cent of the revised basic wage per month. In case of Assam (North East Coalfields), this Allowance shall be payable from February 1, 2012 at 15 per cent of revised basic wage per month.
Contract Labour: The provisions with regard to contract labour are to be as follows: (1) Industry shall not employ labour through contractors or engage Contractors’ labour on jobs of permanent and perennial nature. (2) Jobs of permanent and perennial nature, presently being done departmentally, will continue to be done by regular employees. (3) Implementation of this clause and progress made thereon will be reviewed by the JBCCI periodically. (4) The Management as a Principal employer shall continue to monitor and supervise the implementation of various provisions of labour laws, CMPF/PF including payment of contractor’s workers by contractors at counters specified by the principal employer. (5) Payment to the contractor labour by cheques or through Bank operating in the region.
Committee On Incentive/Reward Scheme: According to NCWA-IX, every Coal Company will constitute a Joint Committee consisting of representatives of the Management and CTUOs to have an indepth study of the existing incentive/rewards scheme and formulate model guidelines for introduction of incentive scheme to achieve higher level of production and productivity. (IRL-IPA)