Just as a team of key officials drawn from the Union Coal Ministry, the Divestment Department and Coal India Ltd (CIL) get ready to pitch CIL's issue before overseas investors, central trade unions are girding their belts to put up a united show of opposition to the divestment programme of the navratna PSU.

While expectedly, the Centre for Trade Unions (CITU) has put up a stiff resistance and has already observed a day's token strike over this issue, the other central trade unions are planning to join the cause.

Available information suggest that to top up the various agitation programmes being lined up, a day's nationwide strike may be called by all the trade unions in the last week of September, a month ahead of the targetted opening of the issue.

TUs also felt that the stipulation, on compulsory listing of PSUs being accorded navratna status, needs to be changed.

Chhattisgarh-based Surendra Kumar Pandey, General Secretary of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Khadan Mazdoor Sangh, told The Hindu that his union would create awareness among the employees against the issue by distributing pamphlets and holding gate-meetings.

Backdoor-privatisation

Ramendra Kumar, General Secretary of the AITUC affiliated Indian Mine Workers Federation, saw the move as backdoor-privatisation.

Sanjeeva Reddy, President of the Indian National Congress, however, said that as part of its policy the union could not support the divestment programme of a profit-making PSU Officials piloting the divestment-process are, however, intrigued by what they see as a backtracking by at least some of the unions.

While pointing out that the Hind Mazdoor Sabha and the CITU had always opposed the share-sale, they are surprised that the other TUs were opposing the IPO now, although at a meeting taken with trade unions by the Union Coal Minister in mid-April, “some of the critical issues were resolved.” The minutes of the said that “The trade unions expressed that the process of disinvestment, if carried out in phases will dilute CIL's stature as a PSU.”

However, they were assured by the minister that the government would hold the majority shares.

When the attention of the trade union leaders was drawn to this aspect, many of them maintained that they had signed the minutes as they had agreed on the other points that were discussed at the meeting like those on completion of the next round of wage negotiations before the expiry of the current one in June 2011. Around 6.3 crore shares have been reserved for employees who are assured of allotment of 150 shares each.

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