Balco unions petition PMO to bail out struggling aluminium industry

Suresh P Iyengar  Mumbai | Updated on January 27, 2018 Published on December 30, 2015


Want Prime Minister to follow ‘Make in India’ in letter and spirit 

Five workers’ unions of 50-year-old ailing Bharat Aluminium (Balco) have written a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry seeking support to struggling aluminium industry and save over 1,000 workers who have lost their jobs due to shut down of the Korba plant in Chhattisgarh.

Speaking to BusinessLine, SN Bannerjee, Working President, CITU (Balco), said while 1,000 workers have lost direct employment there, about 30,000 people from 25-30 villages dependent on the plant.

“Unlike white collar jobs in city, it is next to impossible for workers to find alternative work here. If there is no response from the PMO in 15 days, we will reach Delhi to chalk out the next course of action,” he said.

In a joint letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the major unions such as INTUC, AITUC, CITU, HMS and BMS have demanded the company should be provided with bauxite and coal linkage besides hiking the import duty on aluminium to protect the interest of domestic aluminium producers.

YK Banafar, General Secretary, NAMS, said Modi should secure the prospects of about ₹1.2 lakh crore of investment made by Indian aluminium makers before going abroad to attract fresh investments.

“It will send a wrong signal to foreign investors, if the Prime Minister is going to campaign for fresh investments leaving the prevailing investments to suffer. We wish the PM follows ‘Make in India' in letter and spirit,” he said.

Incidentally, Balco was the first public sector company in which the government sold its stake to Vedanta Group in 2000. The Centre still holds 49 per cent stake in the company.

Following the sharp fall in aluminium prices and steep rise in domestic production cost, the company shut its rolling mill in August leading to job loss for 1,000 workers.

Abhijit Pati, CEO (Aluminium Business), Vedanta, said the crash in LME prices and continued imports from China and West Asia is making aluminium production economically unviable in India.

Currently, he said, about 56 per cent of domestic aluminium demand is being met by cheap imports.

“The aluminium industry with the total production capacity of 4.1 million tonnes is barely operating at half its capacity to curtail losses due to shrinking margins.

“The annual domestic aluminium consumption of about 2.8 million tonnes is largely being met by cheap imports. This has cast shadow on investment of ₹1.2 lakh crore and lakhs of jobs in the poorest of poor regions, he said.

Published on December 30, 2015
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