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Coal India unions call for strike to oppose privatization

16 June, 2020Central unions in India’s coal sector are calling for a three-day strike on 2 July, to oppose the government’s plan to auction coal blocks on to private companies for commercial mining.

Trade unions and workers of Coal India Ltd (CIL) and the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL), among the biggest public sector companies in the world, are seriously concerned over the government’s decision to auction coal blocks on 18 June to private players. Unions are concerned that the welfare of over 300,000 workers employed by CIL and 45,000 employed by SCCL is at stake.

The central unions are demanding:

  • Withdrawal of decision on commercial mining in coal industry
  • Stop all steps towards weakening or privatization of CIL and SCCL
  • Withdrawal of decision to de-link Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) from CIL
  • Enforce recommended pay benefits and provide wage increases to contract workers in CIL
  • Enforce implementation of various issues related to workers welfare and protecting the interests of the CIL, as agreed in the company’s apex tripartite body, joint consultative committee meeting held on 22 May

According to union sources, the CMPDIL, a subsidiary of the CIL, has been doing excellent work for the company and delinking it will negatively affect its services to the CIL.

S Q Zama, secretary general of the Indian Mineworkers Federation says:

“Private companies will trigger the race to bottom with extreme use of contract workers, unsafe and irresponsible mining practices. Commercial mining with the primary objective to gain profit will undermine social protection and conservation of coal benchmarks set by the public sector.”

“The CIL and SCCL have adequate capacity and technological capabilities to cater for the country’s needs. The decision to auction coal blocks to private players is merely an attempt to transfer public resources to private hands. Coal workers will continue to oppose any effort to privatize the sector.”

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, says:

“We stand in solidarity with Indian coal workers. As we are witnessing many accidents and fatalities in Indian mining sector, commercial coal mining may exacerbate the occupational health and safety crisis. India should immediately ratify and implement the Safety and Health in Mines Convention 176.

“The government should engage in genuine social dialogue and take on board the unions’ views on commercial coal mining in order to secure precious national resources for public purpose and to to guard workers’ interests. They have contributed to the growth of CIL and SCCL.”

The central unions taking action include national centers of IndustriALL affiliates INMF and HKMF namely INTUC and HMS along and other national centres CITU, AITUC, and BMS.