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Coal Strike: Government Offered no Solution, Say Union Leaders

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Coal Strike: Government Offered no Solution, Say Union Leaders

Coal production has been affected at over 600 mines operated by a Coal India subsidiary in Chhattisgarh (Representational image). (Reuters)

New Delhi:  The meeting between the representatives of five trade unions and Coal Secretary Anil Swarup to resolve the coal strike remained inconclusive on Tuesday. At the end of the over-four-hour meeting, the union leaders said the strike will continue today - which would be the second day of the five-day strike.

Though Union Coal Minister Piyush Goyal was not present at the meeting, both sides have agreed to continue the discussion. (Read: Coal Strike to Continue. 10 Developments)

The government offered no solution, said one of the union leaders who attended the meeting. "We were only told that our fears were 'unfounded'," he added.

The five major trade unions, including BJP-led Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, have called for a halt in production at all coal fields of Coal India Limited. Their grouse: A clause in the newly promulgated Coal Ordinance which enables commercial mining of coal by private companies, including foreign ones.

The unions are also against what they see as the disinvestment and restructuring of the state-run Coal India Limited.

When there was no headway, the union leaders sat separately to discuss their strategy. "We asked them to delete the clause or at least keep it in abeyance till the issue is resolved, but we were told that was not possible, since it was a cabinet decision," said SQ Zaman, General Secretary, Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC).

The unions then asked for the coal minister's intervention. "But the coal secretary said he was the last man from the government and the talks will continue at his level," Mr Zaman said.

Representative of the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Pradeep Dutta, told NDTV that they would wait till 12 pm today for a response from the government.

On the first day of the strike, production stopped completely at more than 60% units of Coal India. Of its 438 units across the country, 271 ground to a halt. There was partial production at 57 units.

The five major trade unions backing the strike - the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, INTUC, the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Confederation of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the Hind Mazdoor Sangh - represent almost 90% of Coal India's half-a-million workforce.

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