Power generation plunges at NLC following strike

June 9th, 2008 - 6:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, June 9 (IANS) The continuing contract workers’ strike at the Rs.36.38 billion lignite mining and power generation public sector Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC) threatens to force the four southern states and the Union Territory of Puducherry sweat it out. NLC wheels its power to the southern grid for distribution to the four states and Puducherry. But in the past couple of days, generation at the 2,490 megawatt plant has come down to 60 percent of its capacity owing to the strike, a high ranking official preferring anonymity said.

The problem worsened after the conveyor belt broke down recently, bringing power generation down to 40 percent, he said. The official felt once the snag was rectified, generation would go up to 60 percent, though still remaining below full throttle levels.

The 13,000-strong contract workers’ strike is in continuation of a nine-day ceasework in March-April this year — citing a Madras High Court order, they are demanding full absorption by NLC .

NLC in turn has approached the Supreme Court with a Special Leave Petition (SLP) and got a stay order on the Madras High Court judgement.

The first strike was called off in April following an assurance by state Power Minister Arcot N. Veeraswami that he would take up the matter with the Centre.

With the issue still remaining unresolved, the contract workers struck work eight days ago.

A meeting called by the chief labour commissioner in New Delhi on June 6 didn’t result in any solution. The commissioner has now asked the deputy labour commissioner in Chennai to look into the matter.

According to the NLC official, the corporation not only pays the minimum wages prescribed by the law and other statutory dues but also Rs.500 extra as allowance.

“At an average, a contract worker gets around Rs.4,500 per month. The demand of regularisation or equality in pay with that of permanent workers is almost impossible to meet,” said another official.

In its petition before the apex court, NLC said a huge financial burden was involved if the contract workers were to be absorbed.

It also said the Madras High Court order raises several other serious issues, the primary one being: could the High Court order absorption of employees of private contractors engaged by NLC?

The corporation is in a catch-22 situation as many of the contract workers are related to permanent employees, and are being supported by them.

Further, political parties too have become involved, given the number of contract workers and their family members involved.

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