CIL divestment: Trade unions to hold demonstrations

The union leaders said that their future course of action will be decided after discussing the matter with representatives of all central trade unions on this issue.

Kolkata/New Delhi: Opposing the government's proposed Rs 24,000-crore stake sale in Coal India, trade unions on Thursday said they will hold "symbolic demonstration" tomorrow to protest against the disinvestment and also warned of a possible strike at a later stage.

The union leaders said that their future course of action will be decided after discussing the matter with representatives of all central trade unions on this issue.

The government has proposed to sell up to 10 percent stake in Coal India Ltd (CIL) through a one-day Offer For Sale tomorrow to the public shareholders, which may fetch the government about Rs 24,000 crore.

"We all trade unions will, in a day or two, will meet to decide next the course of action. Meanwhile, all the five CTUs have decided to protest symbolic sit-in demonstration across subsidiaries against this," INMF (INTUC) Secretary General S Q Zama said today.

Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh's Baij Nath Rai said separately that they oppose the government's move and might go for a strike.

"We have already launched protest, demonstration, rallies etc...," he added.

Rai said the National Executive meeting of BMS is scheduled to meet early next month in Bhopal and it will take a decision on how to respond to the government.

Nathulal Pandey, President of HMS-affiliated Hind Khadan Mazdoor Federation, said the union opposes the government's move in a very strong manner.

"This is intolerable and the government should have consulted us before any such move... We may go for work-to-rule," Pandey said.

Speaking on the sidelines of 'Safety and Health Management' conference in Kolkata, Zama said the government has not kept its words and the committee was yet to be set up with unions and government representatives, which was supposed to look into the demands including on divestment of CIL shares.

Nearly five lakh coal workers went on a strike early this month after five major trade unions, including BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, gave a call for the biggest ever industrial action in four decades against what they called attempts for "disinvestment in Coal India and denationalisation of coal mining".

Coal workers, however, called off their 5-day nationwide strike after two days following the government's intervention.

In the meantime, markets regulator Sebi and the stock exchanges including BSE and NSE have put their surveillance systems on 'high alert' to thwart any manipulative activities in Coal India shares in the wake of the divestment programme.

Coal India shares today slipped 2.3 percent to close at Rs 375.15, while its trade volumes rose by more than 13 times at the BSE alone.

Coal India would be second company to hit the markets under the government's disinvestment programme in the current fiscal 2014-15, the first being SAIL in which shares worth about Rs 1,700 crore were sold. Coal India alone can help the government meet more than half of the total target.

The government will need to sell shares worth further Rs 20,000 crore in public sector firms in about two months left in the current fiscal to help meet its fiscal deficit target of 4.1 percent of GDP for this financial year.

ONGC was the other major PSU lined up for share sale by the government to raise about Rs 15,000 crore, but slump in oil prices has dampened the prospects.

Other potential disinvestment candidates include NMDC, Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL), National Aluminium (Nalco) and Dredging Corporation (DCIL), while stake sales in PFC and REC are also on the cards.