Chennai: The workers unions in Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd. (NLC) on Wednesday decided to strike work opposing the centre's disinvestment decision even though the Madras High Court earlier in the day restrained them from striking work, said a union leader. "We have decided to go on indefinite strike from today (Wednesday) night onwards," R Udayakumar, secretary of the AIADMK-affiliated Anna Workers and Staff Union.
Speaking to IANS, S Rajavannian, general secretary of the Labour Progressive Front, Neyveli unit, affiliated to the DMK, said: "The worker unions are going ahead with the strike. The associations representing officers and engineers have decided to join the strike later after clearing the legal hurdles."
"We want to clear the legal hurdles first before joining the strike," said M Shanmugasundaram, president of NLC Officer's Association. Earlier in the day, the Madras High Court on a petition filed by NLC restrained the unions from going on strike.
Following the court order, the unions and the associations went into huddle. The worker unions decided to strike while the officers and engineers associations decided to participate later. "If the workers go on strike, it will be contempt of court. We hope the unions don't violate the court order. We expect the people to attend to their duties in the third shift," said an NLC official told IANS.
He said even if the workers go on strike, the company has contingency plans to operate the power plants. However, he could not say how much power NLC would be able to generate if the workers struck work.
The workers and executives at the lignite mining-cum-power generation company are protesting the central government's move to divest five percent of its stake in the company. Udayakumar said even contract workers, numbering around 11,000, would strike work, crippling power generation.
The NLC has 2,490 MW capacity at Neyveli and another 250 MW at Barsingsar in Rajasthan. According to Udayakumar, the boilers will be slowly shut down, reducing the lignite load as they cannot be shut down abruptly.
"Some executives will be on duty till the plant is safely shut down. It may take around two days for the entire plant to shut down," he added. He said around 1,300 MW of power is supplied to Tamil Nadu out of NLC and if the workers go on strike, the power supply will be affected.
Opposing the centre's move to disinvest, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a letter that any proposal to shed even a small portion of the share-holding will lead to considerable labour unrest, and any disruption of power supply from NLC would affect Tamil Nadu, which is already suffering acute power shortage.
She also suggested to the central government that it divest five percent stake in NLC to state government undertakings. Jayalalithaa also said the central government should not resort to disinvestment under the "offer for sale" route, through which share sale can be executed at a day's notice, as it would exacerbate the law and order situation in the state.