The around 4,000 workers of Uranium Corporation of India Ltd.(UCIL) are on strike since 10.06.19 morning. The strike is total in all the seven mines – Jadugoda, Turamdih, Narwapahar, Bhatin, Mohuldih, Bagjata, Banduhurang as well as in the two ore processing mills (in Jadugoda and Turamdih) in East Singhbhum District of Jharkhand (near Jamshedpur) and there is zero production. In addition around 100 mine workers are staging a sit in strike at their workplace in the Turamdih underground mine at a depth of 600 metres in Turamdih. The strike is a result of the management and the concerned ministry (Department of Atomic energy-DAE) trying to force the workers to accept a 10 year wage settlement and refusing to negotiate with the Unions.
In UCIL, which is public sector unit, since the last 25 years the practice has been for the management to negotiate and sign 5 yearly wage settlements with four operating Unions affiliated to IFTU, INTUC, BMS respectively and SUMU. Wage revision of the workers is due w.e.f. 01.04.2018. One year ago the 4 unions submitted a common charter of demands for a fresh 5 year wage settlement. However the management, deviating from past practice, instead of negotiating on the charter of demands tried to impose a 10 yr. wage settlement. This was rejected by all four unions in Nov. 2018. The management stopped all negotiations. After a few months the Central Labour machinery intervened and in a conciliation proceeding before the Dy. Chief Labour Commissioner (central), Dhanbad on 06.05.2019, the management declared that the workers agreed with its proposal but the Unions were blocking. Thereupon the management organized a referendum among the workers on its proposal on 20.05.2019. Only 7 workers out of the 4,072 workers on its rolls (less than 0.02%) turned up to vote and thereby overwhelmingly supported the position of the Unions and rejected the managements 10 yr. wage proposal.
Despite this, instead of resuming negotiations the management with the collusion of the concerned ministry (DAE) tried to create divisions among the workers. In the conciliation proceedings before the Asst. Labour Commissioner(C), Chaibasa on 07th June it declared that it will not negotiate with the four Unions and immediately issued a notice to workers calling upon them to individually select in writing one of the Unions for negotiations. This effort to sow dissent among workers and bypass the unions proved to be the last straw. The workers anger erupted and they spontaneously went on strike from the morning of 10th June 2019 demanding that the management immediately enter into negotiations with the joint committee of four unions on the common charter of demands for a 5 year wage settlement which is already overdue by more than a year. Incidentally in the public sector coal companies in Jharkhand – BCCL and CCL, a new 5 year wage settlement has already been implemented more than a year ago.
UCIL is the only establishment producing uranium in India but the Govt. has no concern for the workers who expend their sweat and toil in dangerous working conditions. On the other hand as if to mock the workers, the officers have been paid lakhs of rupees each as performance related pay just a few days ago.
The IFTU strongly condemns the attempts of the UCIL management and the Central Govt. to try to force a 10 year long wage settlement on the workers and curtail their unions and their rights. This repressive attitude will not be tolerated by the workers. IFTU extends its full support to the agitating workers of UCIL and calls upon the Central Govt. and the Prime Minister’s Office (under which UCIL is directly controlled) to immediately intervene and ensure justice to the workers.
June 11, 2019