Thousands of Indian coal workers end strike

AP News
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Posted: Jan 08, 2015 3:43 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — Around half a million coal workers in India called off their strike following an assurance by the government it wouldn't sell state-run Coal India Ltd. to private investors.

They ended their protest late Wednesday after Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal assured them that Coal India, which accounts for 80 percent of India's coal production, would not be privatized and the interests of workers would be protected.

The concessions to the coal workers are a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wants to open India's mostly state-run coal mines to private players as part of a wide-ranging economic overhaul.

The two-day strike hit supplies to nearly 100 coal-fired power plants. Most coal-fired power plants have stocks of coal to last up to four days.

Five coal industry unions began the strike Tuesday expressing fear that privatization would lead to illegal mining and lowering of wages. They threatened to strike for five days.

Union leaders also are demanding a five-day work week instead of six days and social security for all workers, including contract labor. The government set up a committee to consider the demands, Goyal told reporters.

The strike came at a time when Coal India is not able to meet India's rising demand for the fuel despite the country's vast reserves. India is one of the world's biggest importers of coal, buying around $20 billion annually.