Following violent clashes over the decision to dismiss hundreds of unionised workers and replace them with unaffiliated workers, locals in the Odisha region of India have forced the closure of seven large open cast coal mines, and two railway stations. 1,000 local workers ransacked the management offices and fought running battles with workers who remain loyal to the bosses.
Over forty mining vehicles have been set on fire and destroyed, and railway tracks have been damaged to prevent the transportation of coal. Several hundred police officers have been drafted into the village to try and regain control.
Trouble had erupted on Friday when Indian police – always in the pockets of the bosses – arrested 49 workers who had been protesting at a local train station that services the mine. The dispute follows the decision by bosses to not renew the contracts of over 100 workers so that they could be replaced with non-unionised workers from out of town. Clashes then ensued between workers and management lackeys, resulting in over 100 arrests when the scab workers found their motorcycles had been set on fire.
Over 100 workers had been arrested in similar clashes in October when the bosses initially announced their job loss plans. Dozens remain in prison on charges resulting from the incident, many of whom are currently on a hunger strike.
A spokesperson for the mining company said that:
“It has become a major problem, and I do not see it ending soon. The old workers are now asking management to enforce their demands, but labour law allows a contractor to hire his own workers.”
The Talcher coalfields in Odisha are owned by Coal India Ltd, the world’s largest producer of coal. They estimate that the loss of production resulting from the current shutdown has led to a 200,000 tonne a day shortfall. The bosses are shaking like ‘shitting dogs’ as supply was already stretched.
Despite having some of the largest coal reserves in the world, India are the third largest importers of coal, as they cannot match production with demand.