Wage talks for the two state-controlled coal companies held on Friday ended inconclusively. These two companies, CIL and Singareni Colliereis Company Ltd (SCCL), account for the bulk of the country's coal production with nearly five lakh people on the companies' rolls.

No further date has been fixed, although there were indications that another attempt might be made before the present CIL chief, Nirmal Chandar Jha, now acting as Chairman-cum-Managing Director retires on January 31.

“While differences have been narrowed down, the talks remained inconclusive today” CIL Director, Personnel, R. Mohandas, told this correspondent. It was learnt that the main reason behind the talks running aground was the issue of house rent allowance (HRA). While the trade unions demanded a hike in this component of their salary, the management was not favourably disposed to this hike. The trade unions have demanded that in the mining areas workers be given 10 per cent of their basic pay as HRA. Officials involved in the talks said that historically HRA had been pegged at a low level (of about Rs.150) to encourage workers to stay at the company accommodation which is close to the mining area.

“Giving them a high HRA will incentivise their staying in city areas often involving long commute from the remote mining areas — it is feared that this will affect productivity,” an official said.

Pension

An increase in pension and medical benefits for the retirees was also a thorny issue that was discussed and the management agreed, in principle, to increase pension and bring retired people within the medical scheme.

Officials said that the wage talks remained inclusive at a crucial juncture when the process of selection of a chief for CIL was being mounted and an IAS officer had been named to hold the interim charge of the company. “In case the post goes to someone outside the industry, then the talks will get delayed by at least a year,” it is feared.

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