Coal minister Piyush Goyal is set to talk to union leaders on Wednesday as the strike by over 5 lakh coal workers across the country entered its second day.The five-day strike by five trade unions, including the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), will hit 75% production, including of Coal India, and may also impact fuel supply to power plants.
Negotiations between government officials and union representatives on Tuesday night failed to end the strike and the workers said they will continue 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% has been hit," a senior official said, adding that the union leaders were "adamant" on their stand.
The industrial action is in 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".
The union leaders said they are still open to negotiations at 'political' level. "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," Indian National Mineworkers' Federation (INTUC) secretary general S Q Zama told PTI.
On its first day itself, the strike is estimated to have caused production losses to the tune of Rs 70 crore in first two shifts today, officials told PTI.
The strike, joined by all five major trade unions - BMS, INTUC, AITUC, CITU and HMS -- is also likely to affect fuel supply to power plants, which are already grappling with fuel shortages. CIL accounts for over 80% of domestic coal production.
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. When asked whether a power crisis was imminent, power minister Goyal said, "I don't think so".
CIL chairman Sutirtha Bhattacharya, who assumed charge on Tuesday, said that he was hopeful that the situation would be resolved in an amicable manner.
State-owned Coal India has near monopoly over country’s coal production, accounting for nearly 82% of the domestic output.
India’s largest power producer, NTPC that is mainly dependant on coal for producing power refused any official comments. However, NTPC officials admitted that the coal availability situation at power plants can worsen in case the strike continues for the next few days thereby affecting power generation in the country.
( With PTI inputs)