KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - The coal shortage in India will deepen in the coming months as a result of a string of agitations and strikes planned by staff of Coal India Limited (CIL) and Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL).
CIL has set a production target of 452-million tons for the 12-month period of 2011/12 and judging by current production trends, would miss the target by at least 17-million tons. The shortfall would mount, depending on the intensity and duration of the planned industrial action by a large section of the employees.
Workers at CIL and SCCL would go on a one-day strike on October 10, demanding a payment of $511 per worker as a bonus for the festive season ahead while management of the two companies were willing to commit to a payment of $348 per worker. A day’s stoppage at CIL translates into a production loss of around one-million ton or $24-million.
At the same time, the Coal Miners’ Officers Association of India has served notices to CIL and SCCL management of their own agitation program that would include a series of hunger strikes during October and November followed by mass leave on November 15. The officers have threatened an indefinite strike thereafter if the company management did not accede to their demands for pay hikes and promotions.
Since no mining activity could be carried out by workers without the mandatory presence of officers, as per the Mining Act, the total production loss estimated by the Coal Miners' Officers Association during the two-month-long agitation would be around 25-million ton.
An indefinite strike by coal miners was also looming since the two coal companies have been unable to successfully negotiate a new wage agreement since the expiry of the previous National Coal Wage Agreement on June 30.
The basic wage of a CIL worker under the lapsed wage agreement was pegged at $181/m and the All India Trade Union Congress has demanded that this be doubled. However, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha has demanded a minimum basic wage of $872/m or a 500% hike from current entitlements.
Meanwhile, in the wake of these new threats of supply side disruption, India’s Coal Ministry in its latest report has forecast that the total coal import into the country could grow to 114-million tons during 2011/12, up 33% over the corresponding pervious period. This would be bulk sourced from Indonesia and South Africa.
According to the Coal Ministry, total demand for coal during 2011/12 was estimated at 696-million tons against a total expected supply of 554-million tons. CIL has stocks of about 28-million tons but liquidation of this stock to mitigate the shortage would depend on the availability of limited railway wagons.