West Bengal : Kenda, ECL collieries – Report on the struggle of contract labourers

June 3, 2012

Police atrocities at the peaceful dharna movement of the contract labourers of all collieries of Kenda Area, Eastern Coalfields Limited for the demand of Minimum Wage, Employment Card.

Received from Adhikar (Asansol)

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On 9th day (29th May, 2012) of dharna of contract labourers Kenda Area, Eastern Coalfields Limited by stopping their works, at 11A.M the in charge of local police station , Banbahal IC of Andal PS, Durgapur has arrested five contract labourers after illegal lathi charge without any provocation. At the time arrest these labourers were campaigning for their dharna for their legal rights to the new workers who was supplied by the contractors from outside to resume the contract job of North Jambad coilliery, Eastern Coalfields Limited of Asansol-Raniganj coalfields giving false case of theft, resist public servant to do his duty.

From the very inception of Eastern Coalfields Limited, a huge number of contract labourers are working at different collieries of ECL. The contract workers are engaged at under ground work, surface work, security job, transporting job etc. ECL failed to give the exact number of contract workers in response to our application under RTI Act, 2005. These contract labourers are engaged in deferent job which are directly related with the coal production. Basically they are doing the most important and heavy job of the underground and surface of a colliery like all construction work to save colliery from fire, dangerous gas, water. Also they do work of Tindal which means transportation of heavy materials like machine, motor, pump, rail etc. These contract labourers are doing 5 to 8 times more job than permanent workers. Also permanent workers of ECL do not want to go danger zone of underground colliery. All important works of the danger zone (above mentioned construction works) are done by contract workers which works save the life of underground colliery. But till today the contract labourers engaged for the job in Underground, Open Cast colliries have received less than minimum wage. At present the above mentioned contract labourers have received Rs. 60, 80, 100 to 120 per day. The contract labourers of west Kenda OCP are doing work for 12 hours without OT. The management of some collieries do not maintained proper attendence register as per Mines Act, 1952. So there is no security of a contract labour. Any contract labourers has not received Employment card as per Rule 76 of the above Act.

In the history of Eastern Coalfields Limited this is the first time, a decision for implementation of the legal rights for contract labourers was taken on 22nd December after ten days strike, dharna, barricade and hunger strike at the main gate of ECL from 13th Nov, 2009 to 22nd Dec, 2009. A meeting was held on 2nd Dec. 2009 at office of the TS to DP in presence of TS to Director Personal, Dy Chief Personal Manager(IR) and others two officers from management and contract labourers and Secretary of Adhikar regarding the contract labourers of ECL. A note of discussion has been made with signatory Dy Chief Personal manager(IR). In the discussion management of ECL and we agreed the following points.
1. Payment of minimum wages and payment in presence of management representative duly authorized at the premises of the ECL during working hours on fixed date.
2. Issues of employment card as per relevant act and rules
3. Register of daily attendance as per provision of sec.48 of minres act, 1952
4. Medical facility.

It was also agreed to take follow up action for implementation of the above provision with in a month. Only 350 to 400 workers of Sodepur area (total collieries of ECL are divided in 13 areas) of ECL and workers under head quarters were involved in this movement, but that decision was to implement the above for all the contract labourers of ECL.

The above four decision implemented for the contract labourers of Sodepur area who are engaging in mining operation at underground and surface from October, 2010. Payment has been increased from Rs. 60 to 80 to Rs. 205 per day . After our regular intervention and struggle of workers, most of the workers in the collieries of Sodepur area have received Job Card. But the contract workers of the other areas are deprived from the implementation of their minimum legal rights. Even any union and the management of the collieries are totally reluctant to make the workers aware about the above decision. Very recently we come in contact with the contract labourers of other three areas who are engaging in mining operation at underground and surface and they came to know from our organization about their legal rights. One is Kenda Area.

All contract workers of Kenda area have started indefinite dharna in front of the gate of Kenda area office 21st May, 2012 and they do not report for his duty at collieries for compliance of Provision of The Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970 and Central Rules, 1971 for the contractor’s labourers engaged for the job in Underground, OCP. The general manager of Kenda area has made appeal to the workers who are sitting for dharna for two times without taking any fruitful measures to implement the above four dictions taken by the higher management on dec, 2009 which are the Provision of The Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970 and Central Rules, 1971.

On 9th day of dharna, 29th May, 2012 at 11A.M the in charge of local police station , Banbahal IC of Andal PS has arrested five contract labourers after illegal lathi charge without any provocation at the time of campaign for dharna for their legal rights to the new workers who was supplied by the contractors from outside to resume the contract job of North Jambad coilliery. According to the management report there has been occurred the problem of fire on 25th May, 12. This fire will become dangerous for the life of colliery. But ECL management has surrendered that they have no expertise to deal with fire in permanent role. So it is necessary to resume the work of contract labourers. Instead of compliance of the legal rights of the contract labourers the management and local party have tried to resume contract work forcefully with the help of police force. Contractors and local leaders also have threatened the contract labourers by going their own house to resume the contract work. After arresting of five contract labourers all trade union of Joint Coordination Committee of ECL and local leader Trinamul Congress have decided unanimously to resume the contract work without saying a word in support of the demand of contract labourers. They have started the job to deal with fire on 29th , may by new workers of a contractor. Five arrestee have been charged in false case of theft, make resistance to the public servant to do the duty etc. On 30th they have produced at court. But they have not got bail and they have taken at Jail custody for three days. Management has lodged FIR for another 5 contract labourers in the same case on same day.

This is the plan of the management to disturb our movement by provoking to make law and order problem with the active help of local police. The five arrestee are leadership of the movement. Dharna movement are continuing and Today all workers decided to start indefinite hunger strike from 4th June, 2012 for the following demands.

1. Immediate release of the five contract labourers.
2. Withdraw all false case from the 10 contract labourers.
3. Make necessary arrangements immediately for implementation of employment card, official payment of minimum wages in presence of duly authorized management representatives at the premises of ECL during working hours on fixed dates, medical facility.
4. Maintain proper Register of daily attendance as per provision of Sec. 48 of Mining Act, 1952.
5. Prepare B-Form Register for all contract labourers according to Mining Act, 1952.
6. Provide safety materials twice in a year.
7. Make arrangement to incorporate minimum wages per man day in the estimate of a contract job of colliery ensuring that contract labourers of underground mines and opencast mines get minimum wage with underground allowances.