The workers of NLC India Limited (NLCIL) (formerly Neyveli Lignite Corporation Limited) won a historic struggle by ensuring the appointment of contract workers to permanent posts. Persistent agitations over the past three years have resulted in victory for several thousand workers. Some of the contract workers, who have been working for close to 30 years, will now be made permanent employees with additional salary benefits.
Recognised trade unions from the organisation, namely, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) led the struggle for their demands. The leaders of the trade unions and workers were visibly ecstatic after the agreement was reached.
TEN ROUNDS OF TALKS END DEADLOCK
In the last six months, tripartite talks with representatives of the workers unions were held over ten rounds, finally resulting in the deadlock coming to an end. Workers handed in their demands to the management in September 2019 after previously serving strike notices on three separate occasions. NLCIL employs around 9000 contract workers in different capacities, some of whom have been with the organisation for several decades. The workers’ demands included permanent employment and equal pay for equal work.
C. Amirthalingam, General Secretary of the NLC General Workers and Employees Union which is affiliated to CITU, told NewsClick that the management has agreed to appoint contract workers to permanent posts in a phased manner. “Around 750 workers will be made permanent by the end of 2020. From 2021, contract workers will be appointed to 60% of the arising vacancies. The agreement is valid till 2026 and by that time, all the contract workers will become permanent workers,” he added.
WAGE REVISED FOR WORKERS
During the talks, wages of the contract workers were also revised. The contract workers are provided jobs for 26 days in a month on Rs 579.20 per day without much in the name of social security measures. The unskilled workers, who form the majority workforce of the contract workers, will get an increment of Rs 150 per day, which has been a long pending demand of the trade unions.
“In addition to the revision in the wages, the contract workers will be entitled to increments in allowances for food, house-rent and washing. This has happened for the first time in the history of NLCIL as a result of the sustained struggle of the workers”, added Amirthalingam.
LONG WAIT OF WORKERS TO COME TO AN END
Many of the contract workers have served NLCIL for close to three decades expecting permanent employment. Their long wait has come to an end owing to the persistence of the workers and the trade unions. Workers who have served for thirty years will get an additional increment of Rs 60 per day while those above 20 years will get an increase of Rs 50 per day. Increments for those serving over fifteen years will get Rs 40 and those above ten years will get Rs 35 per day.
“The workers have trusted trade unions for getting their demands fulfilled. Some workers have been waiting for 30 years in their hope to become permanent employees. Finally their dreams have come true,” said Amirthalingam.
With the Union Government turning a deaf ear to workers’ rights, the spirited and struggle of NLCIL will serve hope to their counterparts across the country.