Trade union strike to hit coal output
The three-day strike by major trade unions from Thursday is set to jeopardise coal production across the country, particularly in Jharkhand.
All major trade unions have unanimously decided to go on a strike from July 2 to 4 to oppose commercial mining and direct foreign investment in the coal sector.
The trade unions had earlier given notice for going on a strike in protest against the Centre’s decision to auction 41 coal blocks across the country for commercial mining.
Attempts made by the authorities to dissuade them failed, the last one being a meeting hosted by the Union coal secretary on Tuesday.
Leaders of the major trade unions — Indian National Trade Union Congress (Intuc), Central Industrial Trade Union (Citu), All India Trade Union Congress (Aituc), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) — were unanimous in their support for the strike in collieries irrespective of their political affiliation.
“Remember the time when coal workers had to suffer a lot in collieries under private owners and the Indira Gandhi government nationalised the coal sector in the early seventies for saving them from the distress,” said Intuc president Chandra Shekhar Dubey.
“We cannot allow our workers to go back to the same situation after half a century,” he added.
“That’s true. It’s like going back to square one,” said D.D. Ramanandan, general secretary of All India Coal Workers’ Federation which is affiliated to Citu, echoing Dubey. Ramanandan claimed it would be a full-fledged strike in the coal sector across the country.
“It’s a unanimous decision of all the trade unions, irrespective of their political affiliation. So it will be a total strike in all the coalfields,” claimed Bindeshwari Prasad of Akhil Bharatiya Khadan Mazdoor Sangh, which is affiliated to the BMS.
Pramod Agrawal, chairman of Coal India Limited (CIL), Gopal Singh, CMD of Central Coalfields Limited, and P.M. Prasad, CMD of Bharat Coking Coal Limited, had appealed to the coal workers not to go on strike at this stage. Central Coalfields Limited is headquartered in Ranchi while Bharat Coking Coal Limited has its headquarters in Dhanbad.
On Monday, Agrawal assured that Coal India workers would not be affected by the Centre’s move as “no coal block allotted to CIL is going to be auctioned”.
Coal India at present “has 463 coal blocks that can meet the requirement of thermal coal for foreseeable future”, he said, elaborating on the viability of the state-owned coal major.
Agrawal also reminded that the coal industry had been declared a public utility service and any strike by workers would be deemed illegal and would attract “no work-no pay and other penal actions”.
But the trade unions are unmoved by the appeals and are determined to continue with the strike.