Neyveli Lignite Corp facing another crippling strike

July 15th, 2008 - 12:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, July 15 (IANS) With the Neyveli Lignite Corp. Ltd. (NLC) in Tamil Nadu set to see another strike from Friday, not all seems well in this state-run lignite mining and power generation company. The Cuddalore district-based NLC has already seen two strikes by contract workers in the last five months. Now the PMK-backed Pattali Thozhil Sangam (PTS) union has called the third one this week for permanent workers.

“The workers are trying to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs by striking work. The company is already overstaffed. There is no charm in working here as we are bombarded with questions about the strike,” one NLC official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Power generation at NLC was affected when 13,000 contract workers struck work in March and June, demanding absorption or pay and perks parity with that of permanent workers.

The successive strikes have maligned the reputation of not only the company but also of Tamil Nadu, a state known for its labour friendly environment.

NLC annually mines 24 million tonnes of lignite and produces 2,490 MW of power for the southern grid. It has around 13,000 contract workers and around 20,000 permanent workers apart from administrative staff.

When compared to other mines the staffing level may be very high. But the operations in the highly mechanised lignite mines need ample hands for cleaning the conveyor belts and other equipment, said an official.

PTS president S. Selvaraj told IANS: “The agreements for payment of conveyance allowance, quarterly plant performance reward and productivity-linked incentive to workers and also the wage agreement expired long ago. We want the management to start and conclude the new wage accord.”

According to a company official, the unions for permanent workers have submitted wage revision proposals demanding a 300 percent hike.

Like other public sector companies, the NLC management is waiting for the government’s decision on the Sixth Pay Commission. The company says it will start talks with the unions after that.

As temporary relief ahead of wage revision, NLC has decided to pay Rs.25,000 to per worker in advance, which would be adjusted later.

During 2007-08, NLC’s total employee cost was around Rs.8 billion ($186 million), while its total revenue was Rs.36.38 billion.

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