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Half a million Indian coalminers launch strike

6 January, 2015IndustriALL Global Union’s mining affiliates in India are leading a five-day nationwide strike that has shut down the country’s coal industry. Beginning 6 January, the strike is in rejection of government plans to privatize state-owned Coal India Ltd. (CIL) which produces almost all of India’s coal.

The strike action was jointly called by national coal unions affiliated to five national trade union centers - AITUC, BMS, CITU, HMS and INTUC - that together represent over 90 per cent of the 550,000 Coal India employees. All operations are halted at Coal India, its seven subsidiaries and at the Singareni Collieries Company Ltd.

The strike runs from this morning’s first shift to the end of the third shift on 10 January. However, more strikes will follow until the privatization agenda is reversed.

“If the government fails to respond positively to the unions’ demands, we will launch an indefinite strike very soon,” said IndustriALL Executive Committee member, Sanjeeva Reddy, who is President of INTUC, India’s largest national union.

Coal India accounts for 80 per cent of domestic coal output and 60 per cent of the country’s energy needs. Other core sectors like steel, cement and iron will be affected by the strike, as well as energy.

India’s Supreme Court blocked repeated government efforts to open coal contracts to private companies between 1993 and 2010. The current Government in October 2014 declared the Coal Ordinance (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, which will allow production contracts to be reallocated through a tender process.

The five national centres boycotted a meeting called by the Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal for 3 January, insisting that the privatization policy be repealed before negotiations can restart.

India is the third-largest coal producing country after China and the United States.

Strike demands include:

  • Halting denationalization of coal industry
  • Withdrawal of the Coal Mines Ordinance and subsequent Coal Mines Bill
  • Regularization of precarious workers
  • Protection of service conditions upon transfer