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CIL stake sale: Govt mulls middle path to pacify unions

Coal minister says can discuss issues on assurance of no strike

Written by Priyadarshi Siddhanta | New Delhi | Published: July 24, 2013 1:54 am

The government may extend an olive branch to the agitating trade unions opposing disinvestment in Coal India (CIL),which is offering to offload 5 per cent stake in the company and offering as much stake to its employees.

At least five trade unions of CIL have warned of a nation-wide strike against diluting government’s stake in the company and argue that it is a calibrated move to steer the PSU towards privatisation.

Wary that a nation wide strike by nearly 3.65 employees of CIL may lead to massive dip in coal output and consequently impact power production,coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal along with the top brass of his ministry on Tuesday sought to pacify them by offering a “middle path” to resolve the impasse. He is understood to have insisted that he can take up their issues with the government but there should be a firm assurance of no strike by the unions.

The coal ministry is examining the option to dilute 5 per cent stake and offering as much to the employees. Another formula suggested by the unions on Tuesday include offering CIL’s stake to a major PSU or a share buyback by the company is also being scrutinised. This is based on Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s formula of disinvestment of Neyveli Lignite Corporation’s stake to her government’s PSUs.

Emerging from the nearly two-hour meeting with the minister,although a key union leader conceded that the talks have remained “inconclusive” he steered clear of saying that the unions would resort to a strike. Jaiswal also ruled out the possibility of a strike and said he is hopeful of a final resolution to the issue when the ministry meets the union leaders again on July 30.

Another union leader was reluctant to endorse finance minister P Chidambaram’s suggestion that every rupee earned through the disinvestment proceeds would be invested in the public sector bank or another public sector concern. “How does it matter? The fact remains that the Centre is trying to privatise the company,which is our primary concern,” he reasoned. However,it is learnt that the unions have been less vociferous in voicing their demand this time.

The government currently holds 90 per cent stake in CIL,which is valued at Rs 1,88,227 crore. The finance ministry is seeking to mobilise around Rs 20,000 crore through disinvestment proceeds.

CIL was listed on bourses in 2010 through the country’s biggest ever initial public offering in which the government raised Rs 15,199 crore by selling 10 per cent stake. The company has a cash balance of about Rs 60,000 crore.

Power play

The coal ministry is examining the option to dilute 5 per cent stake and offering as much to the employees

Another formula suggested by the unions include offering CIL’s stake to a major PSU or a share buyback by the company is also being scrutinised

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