The government's efforts to improve the grim power situation due to coal shortage may come to a naught, with CIL workers threatening to go on a 72-hour strike demanding a hike in bonus and pay revision.
"Over three lakh workers of CIL along with two lakh contract workers would proceed on a 72-hour strike immediately if the Coal Ministry fails to address their demands, including a hike in bonus and pay revision," All-India Coal Workers Federation general secretary Jibon Roy told PTI.
State-run Coal India Ltd (CIL) is the world's biggest coal producer and accounts for over 80% of the domestic production.
"The coal ministry has called a meeting with workers' unions of Coal India (CIL) on October 17 which will be chaired by Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal," CIL chairman and managing director N C Jha said.
The ministry will convince workers not to resort to strike which could further aggravate the shortage of coal supplies, as power companies are already battling with less supply, an official said.
The five workers' unions -- the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) --have threatened to proceed on if their demands are not met.
Coal India has offered an annual bonus of Rs 17,000 per worker, while the unions are demanding for a minimum bonus of Rs 23,500 per employee.
The workers of the company had earlier gone on a one-day strike on October 10, which resulted in production loss of around one million tonnes for CIL, causing it a revenue loss of about Rs 140 crore.
The state-run miner has also missed its half yearly production target by around 20 million tonnes at a time when shortage of coal is causing problems in power generation in many parts of the country.
The threat to proceed on strike comes at a time when the power situation in the country is grim as many plants of the country's largest power generator NTPC are running below capacity levels due to paucity of coal -- the key raw material for generating electricity.
Various states, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal, have seen power cuts for long hours in the past few days.
A slew of factors, including less production from CIL collieries due to heavy rains, floods in Orissa and Telangana agitation, have hit coal supplies to power units.
At present, over 40 thermal power stations have coal stocks that is barely sufficient to meet the demand for about a week. As many as 29 projects have less than four days of coal reserves
The government has already asked coal companies, including CIL, to step up supply to power stations facing shortage of the dry fuel to ensure that the power generation is not interrupted.