Coal India trade unions to hold talks with centre on Feb 16

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The five central trade unions of state-owned Coal India Ltd. (CIL) will meet coal ministry joint secretary Vivek Bhardwaj and heads of CIL and Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd. (SCCL) Feb 16 in New Delhi to decide the further course of action after the 10 percent privatisation of the coal behemoth.

“A meeting has been planned on Feb 16 in New Delhi to decide on the further course of action,” S.Q. Zama, secretary general of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC)-affiliated Indian National Mine Workers Federation, told IANS on Thursday.

Before the trade union representatives meet government officials, a meeting will be held among the five trade unions in the morning on the same day to deliberate on common demands and goals.

“We (five trade unions) will meet internally first to decide on common demands and way forward before our meeting with the government,” he said.

“It will be a long-term strategy and we may go for non-cooperation with the management (of CIL and SCCL) at every step which may result in production halt (strike), but the decision will be taken only after February 16,” he said.

Among trade union representation, while unions led by the Left-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the BJP- affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and International Trade Union Confederation affiliated Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) will have one representation each, the Congress- affiliated INTUC will have two representations.

According to Zama, after the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) raised the privatisation cap for pubic sector undertakings to 25 percent, CIL’s recent offer-for-sale was imminent.

However, he complained that the joint-committee for coal comprising trade unions and government officials was not executed until late January whereby they felt “deceived” by the government.

Zama said that in the first phase of the coal auctions, there isn’t visibly a possibility of commercialisation of coal, but it cannot be ruled out for the coming two other auction phases.

“It will be clear after our meeting with Bhardwaj, S. Bhattacharya (CIL managing director) and N. Sridhar (SCCL chairman)”, he said.

The trade unions had not opted for strike so far post the disinvestment move. However, the five trade unions have amicably agreed to hold a “national protest” on Feb 10 affecting CIL and SCCL.

“A nationwide protest has been planned whereby all trade unions of CIL and SCCL will participate to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s policies,” Jibon Roy, general secretary of CITU-affiliated All India Coal Workers Federation, told IANS.

According to Roy, the centre was planning complete disinvestment in CIL which will result in laying off of at least 50,000 permanent workers of CIL and SCCL over a course of 12 years.

“Ten lakh workers will participate in it but our aim is to increase it to one crore making the protest a social intervention programme. It will psychologically boost the worker’s morale,” Roy said.

He said CIL was a soft target for the centre.

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