New Delhi: With talks between government officials and union representatives having failed, the Coal India workers have refused to end their five-day strike. The strike has halted production at over 75 per cent of the coal mines. Estimates suggest that on the first day itself, the strike caused losses to the tune of Rs 70 crore.
Nearly 5 lakh coal workers across the country joined a five-day strike on Tuesday. The strike is also likely to impact the fuel supply to thermal power plants.
Negotiations spanning over four hours till late on Tuesday night between government officials and union representatives in the national capital failed to end the strike, which is being billed as the biggest industrial action since 1977.
"Out of the total production of 1.5 million tonnes a day, nearly 75 per cent has been hit," a senior official said, adding that the union leaders were "adamant" on their stand.
The strike is to protest against 'disinvestment and restructuring of state-run Coal India' and to press for demands including the roll-back of what unions call "process of denationalising of coal sector".
When asked whether a power crisis was imminent, Power Minister Piyush Goyal said, "I don't think so". Goyal, who also holds the Coal Ministry portfolio, indicated that he may meet union leaders on Wednesday.
Claiming that over 5 lakh coal industry workers across the country have gone off-work, union leaders said they are open to negotiations at 'political' level, including with the Prime Minister or the Coal Minister.
The strike call has been given by all five leading trade unions of the country - BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Left Front' Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) and Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS).
The Labour Ministry said in a statement that the strike has affected the working of CIL and its subsidiaries, as also the mines of Singareni Collieries Co Ltd. CIL accounts for over 80 per cent of domestic coal production.
Coming out of late-night talks, Indian National Mineworkers' Federation (INTUC) Secretary General SQ Zama said, "Negotiations at the secretary-level have failed, but we are open for discussions at political level, at the level of Prime Minister or Coal Minister. We did our best to arrive at an amicable solution, but the (Coal) Secretary has his own limitations. Around five lakh workers, including 3.5 lakh from CIL, are on strike."
CIL Chairman Sutirtha Bhattacharya, who assumed charge on Monday, said that he was hopeful that the situation would be resolved in an amicable manner.