Employees of the state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL) are due to start a week-long strike from October 18 — the day the company comes out with its initial public offering (IPO). All the four major trade unions have backed the strike call against the CIL decision for disinvestment.
The joint show of strength comes on the heels of a general strike called by seven of the eight central trade unions on September 7.
The largest trade union, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, that had initially planned to go on a strike from tomorrow, has decided to join other trade unions like the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, All India Trade Union Congress and Hind Mazdoor Sabha.
“We decided to have a joint strike at a date suitable for all, rather than going it alone now,” said Uday Patwardhan, who heads the coal workers federation in BMS.
The four unions are now persuading Indian National Trade Union Congress affiliated to the Congress party to join the strike.
The 600,000 regular workers and 300,000 contract workers of CIL will take part in the strike. They are primarily opposed to disinvestment and contracting workforce.
A K Padmanabhan, president Centre of Indian Trade Unions, said: “The Coal India management has been talking of a road show to attract foreign investors for the IPO. Workers will respond to this with the seven-day strike.”
He cited several Supreme Court observations where the apex court has maintained that natural resources of a country belongs to its people. “Hence, disinvestment of sectors which deal with natural resources was illegal. How can oilfields, coal and gas be handed over to private parties?”
Patwardhan questioned the government policy of listing a public sector company in the stock market and shedding 10 per cent of its shares to become a Navratna. “That policy is the root cause of this disinvestment plan. Our fears are that while this government will sell 10 per cent of the company’s shares, the next government will sell more or another 10 per cent. This will jeopardise the future of our fuel and energy security,” he said.
The government holds 100 per cent equity in the company and is looking to raise between Rs 12,000 crore and Rs 15,000 crore from disinvestment.