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High-handed behaviour? Centre directs RINL to suppress protests by employees

In a move that could ruffle a lot of feathers at the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, the Central government directed the management of  Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL) to instruct employees' unions to refrain from going on a strike after March 25th. Earlier this month, five workers' unions served an indefinite strike notice protesting against the Centre’s move to privatise the steel plant. 
 
According to RINL heads, the meeting was convened following a request made by RINL to advise the unions to refrain from going on strike after March 25. Leaders of Steel Plant Employees Union (CITU), Visakha Steel Employees Congress (INTUC), Visakha Steel Workers Union (AITUC), Visakha Ukku Shramik Sangh (TNTUC) and United Steel Employees Union (CFTUI) attended the meeting.
 
The unions served the strike notice demanding repeal of the plan for 100 per cent strategic sale of steel plant, abolition of the inter-secretaries group constituted to study the strategic sale and the MoU signed with POSCO for a joint venture for construction of an integrated steel plant.
 
The unions also demanded permanent jobs for all Rehabilitation Card holders and suspension of the recent MoU signed with National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) for redevelopment and monetisation of land parcels at Maddilapalem.
 
RINL representatives K. Srinivasa Rao and K. Sanjeeva Rao,  GMs (HR), informed that all the issues, except provision of employment to displaced persons, raised by the unions are not under the purview of RINL. They said 50 percent of posts in recruitment of non-executive trainees are earmarked for displaced persons.
 
However, the unions disapproved of the claim of the management at the meeting. They said the RINL CMD and the Director (Finance) are members of the inter-secretaries group formed to study the sale of VSP and raised objection to the MoU signed between RINL and POSCO. The MoU with the NBCC was also signed by the RINL management, they said. 
 
The Labour Commissioner said there is still scope for bilateral talks on some demands of the unions. He advised the RINL management to hold bilateral talks to resolve the issues with the workers' unions amicably. 
 
He also advised the unions to submit their justification for opposing the VSP privatisation. He appealed to the unions to refrain from going on strike in the larger interests of RINL. “Depending on the outcome of the bilateral talks, the next conciliation meeting will be held,” he said.
 
Meanwhile, the Centre reiterated that it is going ahead with 100 per cent strategic sale of RINL. “An inter-ministerial group has been formed to work out modalities in this regard,” said Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur. Replying to a query by YSRC MP Sanjeev Kumar Singari in the Lok Sabha, he said that the Centre has accorded ‘in-principle’ approval for 100 percent disinvestment of the government stake in RINL, along with RINL’s stake in its subsidiaries/joint ventures by way of privatisation. 
 
On the option of No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Andhra Pradesh government for the sale of VSP land, he said the ownership of the land acquired/transferred to RINL vests with the Centre. “While finalising the structure of the transaction, due consideration will be made for hiving off surplus non-core land and assets,” he said.
 
Anurag Thakur said that the State was consulted in specific matters as and when needed and its support is also solicited in the matters that require its intervention.

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