People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVI

No. 02

January 08, 2012

 

JAMMU & KASHMIR

 

Coal Workers Compel Management to Concede Demands

 

Sham Prasad Kesar


THE Bharatiya Coal Khan Mazdoor Union (BCKMU) of Kalakote, that has since long been affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, (CITU), represents the workers of the Jammu & Kashmir Minerals Limited (JKML) working in coalmines. These mines are located in the Kalakote area of Rajouri district in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Since its foundation, the union has fought many struggles for the genuine and just demands of the workers who have achieved many successes under the unionís leadership. Recently, the same union achieved yet another major victory after it launched a heroic struggle in the form of a fast unto death inside the Mogla mine, and finally forced the JKML management to concede the just demands of the workers.

 

It will be noted that when the J&K state government announced its decision to implement of recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission in the year 2008-09 for its employees working in government and public sector jobs, it did not extend the benefits of the pay commissionís recommendations to the workers under the public sector J&K Mineral Limited. After all the methods of persuasion in this regard failed, the Bharatiya Coal Khan Mazdoor Union served a demands notice to the JKML management, demanding implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission report. An end to the practice of inserting a break after casual workers put in 89 days of service, enhancement of their wages, grant of leaves under the Mines Act etc were among other demands raised by the union. 

 

But the JKML management ignored the notice and continued to turn its deaf ears to the just and genuine demands of the workers. Finally, in view of the reluctant attitude of the management, the mine workers decided to stop lifting coal and halted the dispatch of coal in January 2010.

 

This action of the union forced the management, after a few months, to call the union representatives for negotiations. On March 15, 2010, an agreement was signed between the union and the management in which the management agreed to concede the unionís demands including implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations and other abovementioned demands over a span of time. This written assurance made the workers suspend their agitation of halting the coal lifting. As a goodwill gesture, the union also decided to lift the coal already accumulated up to April 2010.

 

However, it was disappointing that the management did not implement the said agreement even after the passage of about a year. Instead, the management kept adopting delaying tactics in regard to implementing the unionís demands which it had itself agreed to. The union approached and served many notices to the management regarding its demands. There were as many as five meetings between the management and the union in presence of the industries minister as well, but nothing fruitful came out. On December 4, 2011, the union organised a press conference at Jammu to expose this rigid attitude of the JKML management and to seek support from political parties and trade unions for its just demands.

 

Ultimately, the most unreasonable and rigid position adopted by the management on the just and already conceded demands of the workers compelled the latter to restart their agitation. When the management did not show any intention to honour its assurances even after the lapse of 18 long months, the workers decided to start a fast unto death inside the Mogla mine. On December 15th, 2011, more than 500 workers went inside the Mogla mine, about three kilometres deep into the mine, and sat on a fast unto death programme. From the district administration, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), sub-divisional police officer and others came to the Mogla mine site, invited the union representatives for a negotiation and tried to persuade the workers to withdraw their agitation. It was, however, a verbal assurance, and the union leaders stressed that the negotiation could be resumed only if the top management of the J&K Mineral Ltd and top government officials were involved in the negotiation.

 

On the next day too, i.e. on December 16, 2011, the union remain firm and united on its stand.

 

Finally, on December 17, 2011, representatives of the management, i.e., the CMD and GM of the JKML, financial advisor and chief account officer from the state government, and district administration officials came to the negotiation table to have a discussion with the unionís representatives. The latter included union president Ramesh Chander, working president Rajesh Gupta and general secretary Vijay Singh. After the negotiation continued for two days, an agreement was signed at 6 in the evening on December 18 between the management, the J&K government and the union whereby the management agreed that the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations would be implemented and other demands conceded by or before December 19, after consultation with the concerned ministry. This success made the union suspend the programme of fast unto death for one month and workers resumed work from the next day.