Asansol – Protest Against Lathi-charge by Police and CISF upon the Contract Labourers Of ECL

December 21, 2010

by Sudipta Paul

December 21, 2010

A large number of private security personnel are working in Eastern Coalfields limited from the mid 90’s. These security personnel are securing wealth for ECL at high risk of their own lives. Most of the security guards are without any arms. They only have an identity card of the private security agency without any recognition by the Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL). The Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act and Private Security Act are grossly violated by the management of ECL and private security agencies with regard to these workers concerning the following issues.

1. The private security personnel have no employment letter and employment card.

2. No muster roll or any register of the private security personnel have been maintained by the private agencies (contractors) as well as by the principal employer (ECL).

3. Contractors do not provide uniform, shelter and necessary equipment like torches to the private security personnel.

4. Attendance registers are not maintained properly by the private agency (contractors) as well as by the principal employer.

5. There is no payment register of the private security personnel. In some cases security personnel are forced to give signature in the blank sheet at the time of payment.

6. Contrary to the rules, the security personnel receive payment outside the office premises of ECL.

7. Contractors regularly make wage deductions giving cause of theft without any enquiry report against any private security personnel.

8. For last 5 to 8 years it has become a norm that wages are not paid on time. The result is that wages remain pending for 8 months to one year.

9. In most of the cases contractors do not provide provident fund statement to the private security personnel.

10. The security guards of the different agencies are receiving various rates of payment without any pay slips.

11. ECL issued work order to the private security agencies giving less than minimum wages as per central government notification per man-shift of private security personnel. For example, present work order issued at rate per day for security Guard is Rs. 135. But present rate of minimum wage per day as per 30th September, 2010 is Rs. 156.

Private security personnel have raised the voice of protest against above exploitation under the banner of ADHIKAR. They have achieved some successes regarding demands like counter payment and payment according to the work order. Also they received pending payment for some months. After continuous movement of private security personnel under the banner of ADHIKAR, ECL was forced to make some pro-worker decisions, such as regularization of payment with pay slip and PF statement. There is a system that contractor gives payment to the private security personnel after receiving bill for a specific month. In these system private security personnel of Salanpur Area received payment for the month of April, 2010 on 3rd November, 2010. But from November, 2010 this process was reversed so that after making payment to the workers contractors receive the bill for this month. As a result the contractor made a deduction Rs. 2310 from the payment of workers of Sangramgarh Colliery. Basically workers did not receive any payment for this month after doing their duty throughout the month. They asked the manager of Sangramgarh Colliery the reason for this of if there was any enquiry report against any private security personnel which was the cause of non-payment of wages. But the management was not able to show anything. Thereafter the manager and contractor acted together to transfer the three main activists of ADHIKAR from this colliery. They were prevented from joining at any other place as there was no vacancy any replacement job. Effectively they were fired. Thereafter we made several representations to the management of ECL to demand the reinstatement of these three security guards but did not receive any response. Then on 16th Nov, 2010, private security personnel of Salanpur area demanded to talk with the General Manager of Salanpur area. But General Manager did not agree to talk and also did not attend his office. So we gheraoed the personnel manager. Upto 10 pm we did not receive any response from the management of ECL. The personnel manager made several attempts to exit the office with the help of police and CISF. Finally the police and CISF lathicharged the agitating workers to get the officers out. Four of the workers including the secretary of ADHIKAR Sudipta Paul were injured. Women activists were beaten up mercilessly although no women police personnel were present.

The very next morning 200 private security personnel and other worker members of our organisation blocked the road in protest against the lathicharge by the police. After half an hour of roadblock, the hooligans of local CPI(M) tried to run over the blockading workers with a Scorpio car. We resisted their move but they continued to threaten the agitating workers with lathis. After that the local Trinamul Congress members showed up with the claim that they had come to resist the CPI(M) hooligans but did not support the demands of our movement. We ask them to lower their banner. After two hours of road blockade police in seven vans came to the spot and tried to remove the road block. Then they asked to sit for negotiations. After half an hour the general manager came to participate in the negotiations. The discussions were attended by the leaders of all functioning trade union. The Circle inspector of Asansol North police was also present there. We made three specific demands at the meeting.

1. The reinstatement of three security guard at Sangramgarh Colliery from that day.

2. Immediate refund of the illegal deduction.

3. Immediate payment of wages of previous six months (May,2010 to Oct, 2010) to all the security personnel of Salanpur Area of ECL.

The general manager committed that the three fired workers would be allowed to join from the next day. He also said that within 15 days he would make arrangements to refund the illegal deduction and all pending payments would be cleared as early as possible.

The three workers resumed their duty from 18th November at their old place, Sangramgarh Colliery, and payment for May and June, 2010 have been completed. The united action by the workers under the leadership of ADHIKAR resulted in this victory.

Our movement for legal and proper rights of contractual labourers including private security personnel will go on.

(Sudipta Paul is the Secretary of ADHIKAR, an organisation For labourers’ Rights, Movement, Research and Social welfare)