Unhappy over 100% FDI in coal mining, workers to go on strike on Sept 24

Five trade unions of Coal India and Singareni Collieries Company will strike work on September 24 to protest against the government's decision to allow 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI).

The unions are affiliated with the Congress, Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI-Marxist, CPI-Liberation and the Belgium-based International Trade Union Confederation. The BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh will not join them.

Union leaders said 100 per cent FDI will make Coal India uncompetitive, losing consumers and pricing power.

“As the company loses revenue, it is the workers who will eventually bear the brunt and wages, bonus, and other pay components may get impacted. Besides, its approach towards the workers will become more conservative as the company will try to control costs," said G.V.R. Sarma, vice president of the Congress-affiliated Indian National Mineworkers Federation.

Industry analysts said Coal India has to control its employee costs--estimated to cost the Maharatna company  Rs. 38,000 crore annually--to remain competitive.

Company workers believe that foreign firms are likely to opt for increased mechanised mining, hurting job growth as they seek production growth.

If Coal India loses consumers and is financially affected, it might come up with voluntary retirement schemes for workers and stop renewing contractual mining agreements.

Besides opposing FDI, the protesting trade unions have also demanded that Coal India needs to be treated as a single entity and its subsidiary companies should not be separated from the parent.

Workers claimed that the Centre is mulling an idea to make the subsidiaries - Mahanadi Coalfields, South-Eastern Coalfields and Northern Coalfields - into independent companies.

“If it happens so, Coal India will be left with only the loss making subsidiaries and this again will impact the financial position of the company," Sarma said.

On the other hand, the trade unions have demanded that Coal India stops outsourced mining practices and the workers, who are currently under contractors be regularised and treated at par with Coal India’s own workmen.

A day’s strike can affect Coal India’s production in the range of 1.5-2.5 million tonne.

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