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Straws in the wind suggest NLC strike may end

A.V. Ragunathan
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Trade unions call for Cuddalore bandh on July 18

M.Shanmugam
M.Shanmugam

As the strike entered the 12{+t}{+h}day and the indefinite hunger strike by the trade union leaders entered the second day on Sunday, the Labour Progressive Front (LPF), one of the two recognised unions of the Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) and affiliated to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is inclined towards early withdrawal of the ongoing labour strike against the Centre’s move to divest five per cent of the company’s shares.

LPF State general secretary M. Shanmugam made it clear that the LPF is not for continuing the strike any more.

In a candid observation made during his address to the fasting union leaders at the “Q” bridge in the Neyveli Township, Mr. Shanmugam asked: “Since the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is working out the modalities on the transfer of five per cent of Neyveli Lignite Corporation shares to the Tamil Nadu Government, where is the need for continuing the strike by employees and the hunger-strike by union leaders?”

He fell just short of virtually calling off the strike. Doing a loud thinking, Mr. Shanmugam said that earlier the trade unions adopted a tough stand that they were totally opposed to the Centre’s divestment move. But when the State government offered to pick up the shares through its undertakings, the proposal found wide acceptance among the trade unions.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was favourably disposed to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s proposal, had initiated the process for share transfer. “In such circumstances what purpose will the strike serve?” Mr. Shanmugam wondered.

He pointed out that former Chief Minister and DMK leader M. Karunanidhi had appealed to the Centre and the State government to take appropriate action immediately for the early withdrawal of the strike.

Mr. Shanmugam said, “The ball is now in the court of the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa as some of the trade unions are looking up to her for appropriate signal to withdraw the strike.” 

Secretary of the Anna Workers and Staff Union (affiliated to the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) Rama. Udayakumar said that his union was awaiting the response from the State government.

Meanwhile, the NLC management seems to be annoyed by the trade unions continuing with the strike despite the appeal made by the Chairman-cum-Managing Director B. Surender Mohan on Friday to call off the strike as the stake sale issue, involving the Centre and the State was going in the right direction.

The NLC sources said that before contemplating any tough measures against the striking employees a last-ditch attempt would be made to hold talks with the trade unions to persuade them to call off the strike as things were moving in the right direction. The power generation on Sunday was hovering in the region of 2,200—2,300MW against the installed capacity of 2,490MW. As the existing lignite stock position is fast depleting the power generation is heading for a crisis soon.

Bandh call

Meanwhile, about a dozen trade unions called for a bandh in Cuddalore on July 18. A decision was taken after discussions among the union leaders held in the LPF office here on Saturday.


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