Boycotting a meeting convened by the government today, all major trade unions including BJP- backed BMS gave a go-ahead to coal workers across the country to launch a 5-day strike from Tuesday which may hit the power sector and cause a daily loss of up to Rs 150 crore.
Terming the protest action as “unprecedented” in the history of the coal industry, the unions urged the workers to participate in it in a “militant” manner to oppose the coal block allocation ordinance and moves to privatise the sector.
Demonstrating unity, all five major trade unions of the coal PSU – BMS, INTUC, AITUC, CITU and HMS boycotted a meeting called by Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, saying the government’s move to re-promulgate the ordinance after the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill could not be passed in Rajya Sabha reflected the government’s “arrogance”.
The unions said a consensus had emerged among them after the government displayed “enough arrogance” over re-issuing the ordinance “without any consultations” with the unions.
“Government of India is bent upon to dilute and gradually denationalise CIL and SCCL,” INTUC said in a statement.
CITU and AITUC leaders also expressed “pride” over the display of unity by all trade unions in boycotting the meeting convened by Goyal to avert the industrial action.
“The Central trade unions call upon the coal workers of CIL/subsidiaries and SCCL to launch five days total strike in coal industry from first shift of January 6 to third shift of January 10 in most militant manner…It is time for coal workers to do or die,” Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation (INTUC) said.
AITUC General Secretary Gurudas Dasgupta told PTI: “This will probably be the biggest ever strike in the industry” as, 5.5 lakh permanent and contractual workers and officers of the coal industry and CIL would be on five-day strike.
He said none of the leaders of five trade unions today went for the meeting called by the Coal Minister as they are protesting against the Coal Ordinance and any move towards “privatisation and scuttling of the public sector. Power sector may be hit by the prolonged strike”.
Coal Mines Officers’ Association of India (CMOAI) has extended support to the proposed strike.
CMOAI Secretary General P K Singh said: “Time has come to realise the fact that we all get united to face the future challenges before the industry… CMOAI extends its moral support in favour of the various issues mentioned in the charter of demand of strike.”
All India Coal Workers’ Federation General Secretary Jibon Roy said the “federation takes it as a privilege to feel the sense of pride, for all the national federations coming together, while missing the meeting which has been called this afternoon in the ministry of coal” adding, that it demonstrated strong will of the unified workers and unprecedented unity.
INTUC Secretary General S Q Zama urged the workers to stay united cautioning that the government may try to invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) or secure stay against strike from court besides preventive police action.
When contacted, an official said that in the eventuality of strike, Coal India may lose 1.5 million tonne production per day which translated into estimated losses to the tune of Rs 150 crore a day.
CIL trade unions have threatened strike to press for demands including roll-back of the “process of denationalising of coal sector” and stopping “disinvestment and restructuring” of Coal India (CIL).
The strike call comes at a time when the country is grappling with fuel shortages with thermal power plants facing significant coal shortages.
As per latest data from the CEA, 41 thermal power plants have coal available for less than seven days as on December 30.
Earlier, the proposed strike by Coal India workers on November 24 was deferred after a meeting between Coal Ministry officials and trade union representatives.
Coal India, which is the world’s largest dry-fuel miner accounts for 80 per cent of the domestic production.