Coal India agrees to some union demands, strike plan deferred

Reuters Posted online: Sunday, Sep 22, 2013 at 0000 hrs
Mumbai : Trade unions at Coal India Ltd have put off a three-day workers strike that was to begin on September 23 after a meeting with company officials, a company director said on Saturday.

“They have deferred it to December after we agreed to some of their demands relating to VRS (voluntary retirement schemes) and other issues,” personnel and industrial relations director R Mohan Das said by telephone from Kolkata.

The state miner’s five trade unions had earlier served a strike notice, mainly to protest against the government’s plan to sell off five percent of the company’s equity.

“The divestment should go through now,” Das said.

Last month, the government selected seven banks to manage the stake sale that could raise $1.2 billion, prompting intensified opposition from the unions.

Coal India, which accounts for about 80 per cent of India’s coal output, has missed its production target so far this year, which will likely result in costly imports, and the strike would have further squeezed supply.

The government hopes to sell the Coal India stake as part of a divestment target to raise Rs 40,000 crore from stake sales in the current fiscal year, as it looks to trim the fiscal deficit. India sold a 10 per cent stake in the world’s largest coal miner in 2010, raising $3.4 billion in an initial public offer.