NEW DELHI: In the biggest industrial action post 1977, trade unions of Coal India Limited (CIL) across the country on Tuesday went on a five-day coal industry strike that threatens to affect production of up to 1.5 million tonne coal per day and could also leave thermal power plants with short supply of fuel.
CIL, which accounts for over 80 per cent of domestic coal production, has a workforce of over three lakh and majority of CIL workers are learnt to have resorted to the strike protesting what they call the ‘process of denationalisation of coal sectors’ and the proposed disinvestment and restructuring of the coal behemoth.
All India Coal Workers Federation leader Jibon Roy in a statement claimed that seven lakh workers joined the strike. The government has also called a meeting with representatives of major trade unions — BMS, INTUC, AITUC, CITU and HMS — to resolve the issue.
Earlier, the TUs had boycotted the two meetings called by the government.
“The workers across the nation have proceeded on strike,” Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation (INMF) Secretary General S Q Zama said, while adding that the strike began from the first shift at 6 am on Tuesday.
“We are hopeful the situation would be resolved in an amicable manner. The precise impact of the strike would be known later and it would be premature to predict (the impact) at this juncture,” Coal India’s newly appointed chairman Sutirtha Bhattacharya was quoted by news agencies.
“It is true that production picks up tempo in the last quarter, as the closure of fiscal draws near. It is unfortunate that the unions have called for the strike.
“We have appealed to them to withdraw the strike in the national interest and even now our efforts are on to persuade them to refrain from going to strike,” he said.
The strike has come at a time when power plants across the country are grappling with fuel shortages. Coal India had earlier said that it has already stepped up supplies of the power plants, which have been facing fuel shortages, to tide over the likely disruption of supplies due to the strike.
“CIL is supplying extra volumes of coal to the power plants and the Railways is fully cooperating with the coal PSU,” an official had said Monday.