Coal India's trade unions in pursuit of global exposure

It is not just Coal India which is planning a global foray by acquiring coal assets abroad with listing on the London bourse. Its trade unions, too, appear to be keen on having global exposure which may help them learn and adapt better to changing business dynamics. 


Coal India’s largest trade union, Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation (INMF), which enjoys support of more than 40 per cent of the workers is attending the IndustriALL Global Union (IGU) conference in Geneva. The members attending the conference are there to interact with global trade union leaders. They wish to draw upon global trade union leaders’ experience and come up with a sustainable industrial policy for the coal workers and improvise on organisational capabilities.  


The IGU conference is going to focus on five large areas which include building a strong union for the mineworkers, both at the national as well as global levels, and defending workers’ rights in the fast changing mining among other issues.  “Mechanisation of the mines and digitisation of the company as well as the coal sector has now become imminent. Under a scenario when Coal India is thinking of a global presence, we (trade unions) also need to think on similar lines and keep pace with changing business dynamics,” S. Q. Zama, secretary general of INMF told Business Standard before leaving for Geneva.


As per Zama, Coal India's initial talks with officials from the London Stock Exchange is an indication of the company's intent to raise foreign funds and make its presence felt across Western Europe. Also, the company’s other central trade unions (CTUs) like All India Coal Workers Federation, Indian Mine Workers’ Federation (IMWF) and others view the company's move to acquire coal assets abroad as intent of imbibing increased mechanisation of the mines in the country. “We are not against mechanisation as we understand that it is needed to raise productivity. But we need to take into consideration the changing energy scenario as well which is moving towards renewable energy sources and need to understand the future of coal mining,” Ramendra Kumar, general secretary of IMWF said.


At the trade union congress in Geneva, INMF will be interacting with trade union leaders from 140 countries to discuss industry issues and the way forward. Further, it also hopes to implement a few of the takeaways from the Geneva conference in Coal India.


“The conference will analyse the transformation in digitisation and advance technologies and draw up a comprehensive role of the trade unions for future modern societies in light of structural diversities,” Zama said.


While the CTUs have called for a strike from June 19-21 to protest the Centre’s proposal to merge the Coal Mines Provident Fund (CMPF) with Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and the delay in revising wages of about 500,000 coal workers, a major contention point of the trade unions is over growing number of outsourced staff in the company.


Coal India, which was established in 1975 following nationalisation of coal mines, had 650,000 staff on its payroll, which fell to 333,000 in 2014 and has further come down to 326,000 following retirement and voluntary schemes.


As per the CTUs, as high as 52 per cent of the 492 mt coal mined during 2014-15 was carried out by contractual workers while this ratio is poised to increase to 55 per cent in the current financial year.


“Contractual employees accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the total production just five years back. It has now increased to over 55 per cent and is expected to go up in the days ahead,” Rajendra Prasad Singha, general secretary of Hind Khadan Mazdoor Federation said.


Source: Business Standard