Reacting to the clearance by the cabinet committee on economic affairs to the proposal for a 10-per cent disinvestments in National Aluminium Company's (Nalco), employees brought production at the public sector unit's Angul smelter to a complete halt on Friday as they went on a flash one-day strike in protest.
"We demand that the government withdraw its decision forthwith," CPI-M leader and NEFI president Shivaji Patnaik said. Other central trade unions are also expected to extend support to Nalco employees. Leaders of various central trade unions are meeting in Bhubhaneswar to chalk out future course of action.
The Angul plant has a capacity to produce 950-tonnes of aluminium per day and employs 4,500 of Nalco's total workforce of 7,000. The rest are deployed at its bauxite mines and refinery located at Damanjodi in Koraput district.
The CITU-affiliated Nalco Employees Federation of India, which orchestrated the strike, demanded an immediate withdrawal of the government's plan to sell 10 per cent of its stake in the profit-making company.
The CPM-led Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), meanwhile, alleged that the decision to disinvest part of government stake in Nalco was influenced by finance minister P Chidambaram's Vedanta connection. The finance minister was on the board of the Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Resources, which will benefit from Nalco sale, CITU said.
"The token strike is a warning to the government to go back on its decision. If the government does not relent, it will lead to a long drawn confrontation," Patnaik said.
Nalco's executive director U B Patnaik, meanwhile, said that arrangements have been made to keep the potline of the smelter active. "The aluminum production from the smelter plant has stopped. We have made temporary arrangements to keep the potline alive," Patnaik said. He said 153 executive rank officers and 106 casual workers are currently running six power plant units, which produce around 650 MW power.
The disinvestment, planned through the public offer route, would dilute government holding in Nalco to 77.15 per cent from the current 87.15 per cent and fetch the government about Rs1,400 crore in sale proceeds.
NALCO, India 's leading producer and exporter of alumina and aluminium, has reported a 40 per cent leap in profit after tax at Rs608.02 crore for the quarter ended March 31 compared to Rs434.24 crore in the corresponding period of previous fiscal. The company has closed the financial year 2005-06 with the highest-ever net profit of Rs1,564.65 crore, recording an increase of 27 per cent over the previous year's figure of Rs1234.84 crore.