Trade unions are opposing the government’s proposal to go for a second round of disinvestment in Coal India Ltd. While there have been rounds of meeting between the government and the trade unions on the issue, the CIL management has also taken up the task of persuading the unions. CIL director personnel R Mohan Das, who has the lead role in dealing with the trade unions on behalf of the company, speaks to FE’s
Indronil Roychowdhury about trade unionism in CIL and the changes the management has been pushing in the company despite strong trade union activities.
What is the latest about the trade union’s stand on the disinvestment issue?
The trade unions are simply against the disinvestment and they are not even agreeing to the proposal of a 5% disinvestment. They say they understand the government’s compulsions and are not opposed to any other means of raising money, like asking for a special dividend from the company. There are talks going on at the informal levels. I don’t really say the trade unions have softened their stance, but we will have to find out ways of going about with it.
But why are the Unions opposed to the disinvestment? The management control remains with the government.
When Coal India was nationalised, it was 100% government controlled. There was no contract labour or private operator. The company was not driven by profit motive alone and there were a lot of social obligations to be met. With disinvestment, Coal India has become answerable to the public shareholders and increasing profitability has become the prime concern of the company since it has to realise the maximum value of its shares. Some shareholders have even demanded selling coal at international prices without offering any discount. So when a company needs to focus on profitability, it has to change a lot in its operational pattern. CIL has adopted outsourcing and deployment of private operators for mechanising its mines. Such practices were not prevalent at the time of nationalisation. There has been a huge deviation from what nationalisation intended. Such measures certainly alarm trade unions and they feel they have to put a check on such changes. But changes happen and we need to ensure that it happens in a right way through a process of consultation. Disinvestment has made the company more accountable to the public and this ensures more transparency in the system. But now rights are