Unions at Neyveli Lignite gear up to attract new members

Chennai, July 16 (IANS) With the threat of divestment in a private party vanishing, two major unions in the mining-cum-power generator Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC) are gearing up to beef up their membership base through poaching.

"We are confident of increasing our membership base by 2,000 workers this December when they have to give their union affiliation. We hope to gain members from other unions," R. Udayakumar, secretary of the AIADMK-affiliated Anna Workers and Staff Union, told IANS Tuesday.

He said it was Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa's deft move and innovative suggestions that brought to an end the issue of divestment in NLC.

On Monday at a meeting in Mumbai, the centre and SEBI agreed to the Tamil Nadu government's proposal to allow acquiring of the centre's stake -- that is being diluted -- by five state public sector undertakings (PSU).

The whole transaction is expected to cost Rs.500 crore.

The centre had decided to offload five percent stake in NLC to meet the SEBI norms of minimum 10 percent public shareholding.

On the other hand, Jayalalithaa suggested that dilution of 3.56 percent is sufficient as already 6.44 percent is held by the public.

"Our current membership base is around 2,700 and this is expected to go up by another 2,000. We expect new members from other unions, including the majority union LPF (Labour Progressive Front) affiliated to the DMK party," Udayakumar said.

The total number of permanent workers in NLC is 12,700, out of which around 6,700 are with LPF-NLC unit.

There are a couple of small unions that are unrecognised by the management sharing the remaining workers as members.

However, LPF-NLC unit's general secretary S. Rajavannian remains unperturbed and is confident that none of his members would jump the ship.

"Traditionally, LPF is the major recognised union in NLC. We do not expect to lose membership because of the settlement in the divestment issue. The DMK party has opposed the divestment earlier," Rajavannian told IANS. On the contrary, Rajavannian said his union would have more fresh members by the end of this year from smaller unions like PTS and others.

"In NLC and in Cuddalore district everybody knows who led the worker's struggle. It was the LPF that led the worker's struggle for 13 days," he said.

"Only outside Cuddalore the NLC settlement is touted as a victory for the AIADMK government. But on the ground it was the DMK-affiliated LPF that led the struggle," Rajavannian said.

According to him the union is losing membership only due to retirement of workers and not due to resentment against the union.

"The management has agreed to hire fresh recruit and we are confident of adding new members then," Rajavannian said.

According to him, around 60 workers in NLC's Rajasthan unit are members of the LPF-NLC union.

Rajavannian said the DMK chief M. Karunanidhi always sides with NLC workers.

Meanwhile, both the major unions are gearing up for another long drawn fight against the management for wage revision.

"The earlier wage agreement ended 1.1.2012. The unions have submitted their demands individually and collectively," Udayakumar said.

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