AP miners strike cripples production

Friday, 24 January 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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HYDERABAD: A strike by workers of a state-owned coalmining company in Andhra Pradesh against what they call "privatisation attempts" crippled coal production for the second day Thursday.

Officials at the Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) claimed that on the first day of the strike by a majority of the nearly 100,000 workers Wednesday there was a production of only 35,000 tonnes against the usual daily production of 100,000 tonnes.

The workers' unions however claimed that the strike was total.

The unions allege that outsourcing work in an open cast mine and introducing a new machine called Surface Miner were attempts to privatise the company.

The state government has defended its recent introduction of Surface Miner at a mine, saying this would improve efficiency and productivity. It has assured the workers that there would be no privatisation of the mines or retrenchment of workers.

The SCCL operates 67 mines -- 54 underground and 13 open cast mines -- in four districts: Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam in northern Andhra Pradesh. The state holds 49 percent equity and the centre 51 percent in this joint venture.

The strike may deal a blow to the company's efforts for a turnaround to make a profit of 1.5 billion during this financial year.

Terming the strike as "unfortunate" Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Wednesday evening said it had been resorted to despite SSCL achieving the distinction of being the only public sector company to share 10 percent of the profits with the workers.

In fact Naidu has been citing the example of SCCL in his presentations at seminars these days to show how the efforts of his government to improve productivity and efficiency were paying rich dividends.

The company had accumulated losses of 12.19 billion during 1995-96 but wiped out the losses in five years due to strenuous efforts by the workers and the management. He said the government succeeded in improving the production to a record level of 32.5 million tonnes.

Naidu said outsourcing in open cast mines for use of surface miners was only to improve the efficiency. "There is no proposal to privatise the company," he said.

Naidu alleged that the workers' unions had resorted to the strike to gain mileage in view of the next month's elections prior to grant of recognition to the biggest union of workers.

President of the Singareni Workers' Union Y. Gattaiah, claimed that the strike was total. He blamed the "adamant" attitude of the management for the strike and said it would continue so long as the government does not withdraw its decision to introduce the contract system of production in an open cast mine.

The government expressed confidence that the strike would have no impact on power generation at thermal power stations in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Officials said that a majority of the 3,200 industries depending on Singareni coal had also built up the stocks.

A five-day strike by the miners in August last year had resulted in a production loss of 134,000 tonnes and a revenue loss of 125.2 million. The striking employees also lost wages totalling Rs 120 million.

The employees had also gone on a 13-day strike in June 2001, resulting in a loss of more than 1 billion to the company.
Source: IANS
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