One day strike against 100% FDI cripples production in Coal India

The strike in Coal India hit a significant part of the Maharatna company’s daily output of around 1.2 million tonne (mt) of production after five major trade unions called for a one-day strike against the centre’s decision to allow 100 per cent foreign direct investment in coal mining.

Officials at Coal India said that around 30 per cent attendance was registered in the first shift which mainly comprised of executives and officers.

“A significant portion of the workers were on strike and production has been hit. However, we are in the process of estimating the production loss”, a company executive said.

Preliminary estimates suggest that the company might have suffered losses to the tune of 1.1 mt. At the fuel supply agreement sale rate, 1 mt of production translates roughly into Rs. 137 crore in value terms.

“Response to the strike has been overwhelming. Workers have realised that FDI in coal would destroy Coal India and have opposed it whole heartedly”, S.Q. Zama, secretary general of the Congress-backed National Mine Workers’ Federation said.

The largest impact of the strike was felt in Mahanadi Coalfields and South Eastern Coalfields – the two largest subsidiaries of Coal India, followed by Eastern Coalfields and Western Coalfields.

Union leaders believe that allowing 100 per cent FDI in the coal sector would render Coal India uncompetitive and the Maharatna company will lose a major portion of its consumers as well as pricing power.

The workmen are wary that as Coal India loses its consumers, its earnings will be impacted and as a result, it will have an adverse effect on its labour policies.

This fear is also allayed by sector analysts who believe that to render itself competitive, Coal India will eventually control its employee costs which alone account for Rs. 38,000 crore per annum. 

The workers are of the view that once foreign mining firms enter the country under a liberalised coal mining regime, the miners are most likely to opt for increased mechanised mining and thus jobs may not be created in the sector although there may be production growth.

On the other hand, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which is not a signatory with other federations to the one-day strike notice, has decided to observe 5-day ceasework from September 23 till September 27 on the same issue.

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