Coal industry employees across the country on Tuesday went on a five-day strike, halting production at over 60 per cent of state-run Coal India units that may hit fuel supply to power plants.
While negotiations began this evening between government officials and representatives of trade unions, the strike is estimated to have caused losses to the tune of Rs 35 crore (Rs 350 million) in Tuesday's morning shift itself.
The strike, being billed as the biggest industrial action for any sector since 1977, has been called by the five leading trade unions of the country, including BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS). The unions said about 3.5 lakh people have gone on the five-day strike since morning.
The industrial action is in protest against 'divestment and restructuring of state-run Coal India' and to press for demands including the roll-back of what they call as "process of denationalising of coal sector".
The Labour Ministry said in a statement that the strike has affected the working of CIL and its subsidiaries.
"One mine of Singareni Collieries Co Ltd was also affected. Further efforts for conciliation between management and the unions are on," it added.
According to a senior official, "Out of 438 units of CIL, 271 have been completely impacted by the strike. There is only partial production from 57 units. The PSU has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 35 crore in the first shift only."
The strike, joined by all five major trade unions - BMS, INTUC, AITUC, CITU and HMS -- is likely to affect production of up to 1.5 million tonnes (MT) of the dry-fuel per day besides fuel supply to power plants which are already grappling with fuel shortages.
"We are hopeful the situation would be resolved in an amicable manner. The precise impact of the strike would be known later and it would be premature to predict (the impact) at this juncture," Coal India's newly appointed chairman Sutirtha Bhattacharya told PTI.