Coal India unions agree to defer 3-day strike

Mine company meets workers' demands on voluntary retirement schemes
||Last Updated: 09/24/2013

MUMBAI (Reuters) — Trade unions at Coal India Ltd. have put off a three-day workers strike from Sept. 23 to December, after a meeting with company officials, a company director said on Saturday.

The state miner's five trade unions had earlier served a strike notice, mainly to protest against the government's plan to sell off five per cent of the company's equity. Last month, India selected seven banks to manage the stake sale that could raise $1.2 billion, prompting intensified opposition from the unions.

"They have deferred it to December after we agreed to some of their demands relating to VRS (voluntary retirement schemes) and other issues," Personnel & Industrial Relations Director R Mohan Das said by telephone from Kolkata. "The divestment should go through now."

Coal India, which accounts for about 80 per cent of India's coal output, has missed its production target so far this year, which will likely result in costly imports, and the three-day strike would have further squeezed supply.

The government hopes to sell the Coal India stake as part of a divestment target to raise 400 billion rupees from stake sales in the current fiscal year, as it looks to trim the fiscal deficit. India sold a 10 per cent stake in the world's largest coal miner in 2010, raising $3.4 billion in an initial public offer.

Coal India shares ended 1.43 per cent higher on Friday at 301.70 rupees on the National Stock Exchange.

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