New Delhi: Coal workers' trade unions tonight called off their two-day old nationwide strike after reaching an agreement with the government, which ruled out denationalisation of Coal India Ltd (CIL) and promised to protect interests of the PSU's employees.
"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," Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters here.
CIL chief Suthirtha Bhattacharya said the strike is off with immediate effect.
The five-day strike, which started yesterday, was called by all five major trade unions, including BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, protesting against "disinvestment in Coal India and denationalisation of coal mining".
The stir by about five lakh coal workers had caused an estimated production loss of Rs 300 crore and even raised fears of possible power crisis.
The breakthrough came after a six-hour-long marathon meeting between Goyal, unions and CIL 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 strike has been called off," AITUC leader Lakhan Lal Mahato said after a meeting.
Indian National Mineworkers' Federation (INTUC) President Rajendra Singh also confirmed that the strike has ended.
"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.
"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," he said.
The talks had resumed today after a meeting between Coal Secretary Anil Swarup and union leaders failed to yield any results last night to end the strike -- which is being billed as the biggest industrial action in nearly four decades.
CIL Chairman Sutirtha Bhattacharya was also present in today's negotiations. 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.
Officials said the strike impacted over 75 per cent of the daily coal output of 1.5 million tonnes, with 290 out of 438 CIL coal mines being hit in two days of the strike.
There were reports of clashes between workers and police in Jharkhand and West Bengal. There were concerns that the strike may severely hit fuel supply to over 100 thermal power plants across the country, as the emergency coal arrangements may not last long.
Unions had also alleged that CIL management was trying to bring in temporary workers to operate the 290 shut mines. After yesterday's failed conciliatory talks, which continued till late in night, the workers' representatives had said they wanted political leadership to come to the negotiating table.
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. Industry bodies, including Assocham and PHD Chamber, earlier in the day said that the strike could impact industrial growth across the country, especially in power-deficient northern and southern regions, resulting in long unplanned outages.