Coal India Executives Threaten to Strike Demanding Higher Pay

Executives at Coal India Ltd. are seeking an increase in pay and overdue performance-related bonuses, failing which they plan to start a protest next month and eventually go on an indefinite strike.

Executives will wear black badges to work on Aug. 5, go on mass leave on Sept. 24 and then start an indefinite strike, said Damodar Banerjee, treasurer at the Coal Mines Officers Association of India. The executives’ actions will halt production and dispatch of coal from the company’s mines, he said. The association sent the strike notice to the state-owned company’s management and government ministries on June 12.

Kolkata-based Coal India’s $10.6 billion cash pile has prompted investors and employees to demand higher payouts. The world’s biggest coal producer mines an average 1.2 million metric tons of coal daily. Coal India shares rose 0.5 percent to 293.70 rupees as of 2.35 p.m. in Mumbai. The shares have declined 17 percent this year, compared with a 2.3 percent gain in the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex.

“We are doing our best to resolve the issues, especially the demand for payment of performance-related payments,” Coal India’s Personnel Director R. Mohan Das said in a phone interview.

Performance-related bonuses, due for the past six years and amounting to about 9.5 billion rupees ($160 million) have not been paid to Coal India’s 19,000 executives, Mohan Das said. The officers’ association has asked for a payment of 8.5 percent compounded interest on the arrears. Mohan Das said no interest will be paid.

Government rules prohibit payment of performance bonuses to employees of a loss-making company. Coal India executives who work for unprofitable units were thus ineligible to receive the payments. The parent’s management withheld bonuses from all executives to treat them at par while the issue is resolved.

The company’s non-executive workers got a wage increase last year and struck work for a day in 2011 to win higher festival bonuses.

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