CIL to lose 1.5 million tonnes of production daily if stir strikes: union

Govt’s plan to divest 5% stake not viable a option in present economic scenario, says Coal India union leader

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Puja Bhattacharjee | September 18, 2013



The state-owned Coal India Limited (CIL), the largest coal producer in the world, stands to lose production worth 1.5 million tonnes on average every day if the workers’ union goes ahead with a proposed three-day strike next week against the government’s move to divest 5 percent stake to private players, according to a top trade union leader.

“The workers are not against privatisation per se but considering the current economic situation, it is not a wise decision,” Jiban Roy, general secretary of the All-India Coal Workers’ Union, told Governance Now over the phone on Wednesday.

The CIL management and five trade unions are scheduled to sit on the negotiating table on September 20 to arrive at a solution on the issue. The workers had earlier threatened to go on a three-day strike from September 23 if the government goes ahead with its disinvestment plan.

Pointing out that 50 percent of the CIL board of directors is dominated by private players, though they only 10 percent stake in the company, Roy said the union wants people who are intrinsically connected to the coal industry on the board. He alleged that interests of private parties dominate the agenda of board meetings, which are in no way connected to the industry.

The union, he said, feels the decision to divest stake just before the elections might be a ploy to woo foreign investors. Alleging that private players routinely put pressure on the government to give in to their demands, Roy said, “The government of India is becoming weak with every passing day. We want the government to take a stable and conscious position to safeguard and defend the country’s interests.”

The government, which holds 90 percent stake in CIL, had initially planned to sell off 10 percent stake but later settled for a 5-percent disinvestment following fierce opposition from the unions. CIL, which has cash balance of about Rs 62,000 crore, plans to garner Rs 40,000 crore this fiscal by way of disinvestment.

But Roy fears that with the proposed disinvestment, CIL will be taken over by contractors. “In India, even subsidiaries are feudal in nature. The government cannot take decisions without involving the trade unions,” he said.The union had met with the coal ministers twice to discuss their grievances, but to no avail, Roy pointed out.

Meanwhile, the government has appointed Khaitan & Co as the legal advisers for managing the disinvestment episode.

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