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On Thursday, April 2, five trade unions served an indefinite strike notice in protest against the government-owned Singareni Collieries Company Limited administration’s move to deduct 50% salaries of all of its workers and employees, along with the announcement of temporary layoffs during April.
In a joint statement, five unions -- Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) demanded the company’s chairman to immediately pay full salaries and asked to comedown on layoffs.
On Wednesday, in an official circular, SCCL announced layoffs in 22 underground mines of its total 27 operational mines. It ordered the stoppage of manual underground face working, manual drilling and support work till April 14 or until the lockdown is lifted. Furthermore, the company stated that 50% salaries will be deducted from the salaries of workers and employees for the month of March.
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Following this, on April 2, workers participated in dharnas at various units of SCCL in Telangana to mark their protest against the sudden cuts in salaries. However, the workers did maintain social distancing during their demonstrations amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Amid the country-wide lockdown, SCCL miners have attended their duties as thermal coal supply was declared as an essential service. But, SCCL administration has abruptly deducted 50% of their salaries despite the workers attending their jobs,” said Sai Babu, state general secretary, CITU.
According to the unions, nearly 20,000 workers will be affected due to the sudden layoffs. The union leaders are questioning the need for layoffs when already the lockdown is in place.
“By suddenly announcing the layoffs, the administration wants to cut workers salaries for the next month also. Layoff simply means that the workers’ salaries will be deducted under Industrial Disputes Act. While the state and central governments have appealed to all employers to pay full salaries, SCCL's move is nothing less than an illegal act,” stated Sai Babu in a press release.
In response to the strike notice, I V Thomas of the Regional Labour Commission, Hyderabad, has asked the SCCL Chairman to facilitate bilateral discussions between both the SCCL management and the general secretaries of the unions to settle the demands raised by the unions.
“Although the salaries are being deducted, SCCL has assured that all workers will get a minimum salary of Rs 15,000,” said Raji Reddy, General Secretary of Telangana Boggugani Karmika Sangam, a registered union with the SCCL.