Coal Workers' Strike Ends, Govt Rules Out CIL Privatisation

New Delhi
Coal Workers' Strike Ends, Govt Rules Out CIL Privatisation
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

Coal workers tonight called off their nationwide strike after two days, as the government assured trade unions that the state-run Coal India Ltd (CIL) will not be privatised and the employees' interest will be protected.

In two days, the strike caused production loss of an estimated Rs 300 crore with over 75 per cent of the daily 1.5 million tonnes a day output taking a hit. There were also apprehensions that a prolonged strike could lead to a possible electricity crisis, if nearly 100 thermal power plants ran out of fuel supplies.

Nearly five lakh coal workers had gone on a strike yesterday after five major trade unions, including BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, gave a call for the biggest ever industrial action in four decades against what they called the attempts for "disinvestment in Coal India and denationalisation of coal mining".

"There is no intention for denationalisation of CIL. The present and future interest of CIL employees will not be affected in any manner. CIL will be protected and there need be no apprehension about its ownership or management going into private hands," Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters after an over six-hour-long marathon meeting with the trade union leaders.

CIL Chairman Suthirtha Bhattacharya also said that the strike has been called off with immediate effect. CIL produces coal for nearly 80 per cent of the country's requirement.

The five-day strike was called off midway after Goyal assured the union leaders that the government will look into their concerns and will form a committee, headed by a Joint Secretary, that will have representation from all five trade unions and officials of CIL and Singareni Collieries Company Ltd.

"The strike has been called off," AITUC leader Lakhan Lal Mahato said after the meeting.

Indian National Mineworkers' Federation (INTUC) President Rajendra Singh also confirmed that the strike has ended. The talks resumed today between the government and the trade unions, after a meeting called by Coal Secretary Anil Swarup failed to yield any positive results last night. There were reports of clashes between workers and police in Jharkhand and West Bengal earlier in the day.

CIL could produce only about 0.2 million tonnes today, while it was 0.22 million tonnes yesterday. Production was also hit at Singareni Collieries mines that produces around 0.1 million tonnes a day.

The breakthrough came after Goyal met the union leaders along with CIL executives and the government officials.

Goyal said: "Unions had expressed their apprehensions. Government is seriously looking into their concerns. We have put our views before the union leaders that under what circumstances the ordinance (for coal auction) was brought.

"Our intention was development of the sector, bringing in transparency in future coal block allocations through e-auctions and ensuring employees welfare.

"Eastern region will specially benefit where these coal mines are located. We have considered welfare provisions regarding workers, their security, housing and other aspects."

The Minister further said that CIL's one billion tonne production target by 2019 is achievable. The workers will work extra time to make up for the two-day loss.

"The discussions have been successful," Goyal said, while adding that a committee will be set up to look into all the concerns of the workers.

The union leaders, on their part said that they would wait for the report of the committee to chart out their future course of action.

The committee will submit its report soon, Goyal said, but did not give any specific timeline.

"I put forward many points to the union leaders, among them were assurances were about safety and security of the workmen, both of Coal India and those workers working in their mines which have been cancelled and are going for auction or allotments," Goyal said.

Earlier in the day, top officials from states, including in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, had expressed apprehensions that power supplies may be hit if the strike continues further, while executives at power companies also said they may run out of the emergency fuel supplies if coal production remained stalled.

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