Coal India officers to go on strike, but workers to stay away

Written by Raj Kumar Ray | Noor Mohammad | Noor Mohammad | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 12 2014, 21:13pm hrs
The 3.5-lakh workers of Coal India will not participate in the three-day strike starting from March 13 called by the company's officers union demanding a wage hike.

However, some administrative and technical work could be hampered when the 19,000-odd officers of the Maharatna PSU stop work.

"Workers are not participating in strike called on March 13. While mining is unlikely to be affected, some administrative and technical work may be affected," Ramendra Kumar, secretary of the Indian Mine Workers Federation, told FE.

Top CIL officials are a bit concerned even though they don't expect much impact from the proposed strike by officers. "A strike by officers will not have the same kind of impact on production as one by workers because the number of officers are very small compared to workers. However, it is going to be very difficult to predict the potential impact of the strike on output as all mining operations are supervised by officers," a senior CIL official said.

Last year, the dominant workers' unions had threatened to halt work to protest disinvestment but called it off after the government shelved stake sale plans and CIL on its part paid a hefty dividend of Rs 18,317 crore for 2013-14.

While deciding to stay out of the officers strike, the CIL workers unions are slated to meet company top brass on March 25 to place a new charter of demands. "We are yet to finalise the agenda. But we will be demanding better working conditions for contract workers and a post-retirement medical facility for workers," Kumar said.

A strike at CIL hurts the power sector the most as thermal power continues to dominate India's energy mix. Power producers still fret that the officers strike may choke logistics and hence cut supplies even if mine workers continues to excavate coal.

CIL accounts for about 80% of the India's coal production of 560 million tonne and a day's strike by workers would have meant a shortfall of 2 million tonne that has to be met through imports.