Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fearful Nalco staff refuse to join duty

Dillip Satapathy / Bhubaneswar April 16, 2009, 0:20 IST



Public sector National Aluminium Company (Nalco) today failed to restart operations at its bauxite mines in the Panchpatmali hills in Koraput district of Orissa, with workers deciding not to join duty till the authorities fulfilled their security-related demands.

The demands include no duty in the mining area after sunset, increasing the number of security personnel and their presence in the workers’ colony and in buses used to transport the workers.

The operations have halted following a Naxalite attack on the site on Sunday night, in which 10 Central Industrial Security Force jawans and five Naxalites were killed. About 100 Nalco workers were held hostage by the ultras for over eight hours.

The Nalco management today held prolonged discussions with the workers’ union. With no solution in sight, sources said it might be some more days before the mines restarted.

Terming the workers’ demand “unreasonable”, a top executive of the company engaged in the talks said, “If we agree to the demands, it will lead to virtual closure of the company. For example, accepting the workers’ demand for no work after sunset will render a large part of the workforce surplus. Besides, similar demands may be raised at other establishments of the company, such as the alumina refinery at Damanjodi and the aluminium and power complex at Angul, which will create operational problems for us.”

“We cannot increase the number of CISF personnel overnight. As of now, 417 CISF men are deployed to guard the refinery complex in Damanjodi and the bauxite mines at Panchpatmali, 15 km away. It will take time for reinforcements and to provide infrastructure for additional securitymen like housing, schools and healthcare services,” the official added.

The company estimates its spending on security will more than double if the demands of the employees are accepted. Nalco at present pays Rs 1.5 crore a month for the 417 CISF personnel deployed at the mines and the refinery complex. This excludes the cost of services like housing, healthcare and schooling.

Meanwhile, due to unavailability of bomb detention squads, the company has been unable to declare the mines completely free of land mines that the Naxalites may have laid during the attack.

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