Coal workers strike may hit power plants

New CMD battles coal workers protesting against government’s disinvestment plans

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | January 6, 2015



Sutirtha Bhattacharya, the newly appointed chairman and managing director of Coal India Ltd (CIL), gets a frosty welcome from his staff even as the country prepares for power problems. A day after taking charge Bhattacharya faces big challenge in the form of a five-day strike by the coal unions from Tuesday.  The post of CMD was vacant for over five months.

CIL produces around 80 per cent of country’s overall coal and supplies it to 82 of the 86 coal-based thermal power plants across India. The shut down can affect coal production of up to 1.5 million tonnes a day and may also hit supplies to power plants, grappling with fuel shortages.  However, the situation may not turn out to be band as in anticipation of the strike, Coal India had had stepped up supplies to the power plants.

Five central trade unions have shut down production at all coalfields of Coal India Limited (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL). The coal workers, including permanent and contractual, are on strike to protest against the government’s plan to disinvest and they are also demanding the roll-back of process of denationalisation of coal sector. Interestingly, even the BJP-backed Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh is participating in the strike. Other unions are INTUC, AITUC, CITU and HMS.

Terming it as the biggest industrial action for any sector since 1977, Jibon Roy, general secretary, All India Coal Workers Federation, said the government was exploiting the supreme court verdict on denationalisation of coal industry and demanded that whichever mines were allotted illegally should be given back to CIL.

Another strike, which was scheduled for January 13, has been called off, Jibon said.

The management of CIL had appealed to the unions not to go on strike as it would hit the power production across the country. The strike is likely to result in loss of more than Rs 1,000 crore a day, admits Jibon Roy.

The unions had boycotted a meeting called by Coal Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday but they are likely to meet him today in the evening in Delhi.

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