Coal strike halts production at 75 pc mines across India; talks fail

Kolkata/New Delhi: About 5 lakh coal workers across the country today went on a five-day strike, hitting 75 per cent production, including of Coal India, and may also impact fuel supply to power plants.

Negotiations spanning over four hours till late in the national capital between government officials and union representatives failed to end the strike and the workers said they will continue the strike, which is being billed as the biggest industrial action since 1977.

"Out of the total production of 1.5 million tonnes a day, nearly 75 per cent has been hit," a senior official said,
adding that the union leaders were "adamant" on their stand. The industrial action is in protest against 'disinvestment and restructuring of state-run Coal India' and to press for demands including the roll-back of what unions call "process of denationalising of coal sector".

When asked whether a power crisis was imminent, Power Minister Goyal said, "I don't think so". The minister, who
also holds Coal Ministry portfolio, also indicated that he may meet union leaders tomorrow.

Claiming that over 5 lakh coal industry workers across the country have gone off-work, union leaders said they
are open to negotiations at 'political' level, including with the Prime Minister or the Coal Minister.

On its first day itself, the strike is estimated to have caused production losses to the tune of Rs 70 crore in first
two shifts today, officials told PTI.

The strike call has been given by all five leading trade unions of the country, including the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS).

The industrial action is in protest against 'disinvestment and restructuring of state-run Coal India' and to press for demands including the roll-back of what they call as "process of denationalising of coal sector".

The Labour Ministry said in a statement that the strike has affected the working of CIL and its subsidiaries, as also
the mines of Singareni Collieries Co Ltd.

The strike, joined by all five major trade unions - BMS, INTUC, AITUC, CITU and HMS -- is also likely to affect fuel supply to power plants, which are already grappling with fuel shortages. CIL accounts for over 80 per cent of domestic coal production.

Coming out of late-night talks, Indian National Mineworkers' Federation (INTUC) Secretary General S Q Zama told PTI, "Negotiations at the secretary-level have failed, but we are open for discussions at political level, at the level of Prime Minister or Coal Minister.

"We did our best to arrive at an amicable solution, but the (Coal) Secretary has his own limitations. Around five lakh
workers, including 3.5 lakh from CIL, are on strike."

CIL Chairman Sutirtha Bhattacharya, who assumed charge yesterday itself, said that he was hopeful that the situation
would be resolved in an amicable manner.

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