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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Indian aluminium workers end strike
Balco plant in Korba in central Chhattisgarh
Balco workers won guarantees of back pay and no lay-offs
Workers at the newly privatised Indian aluminium firm Balco returned to work on Wednesday, ending a 67-day strike against the government's sale of a 51% stake in the company.

The 7,000 workers agreed late on Tuesday to end the strike after the new management agreed back pay for two months and promised there would be no lay-offs.

The strike over India's first big privatisation was seen as a test case for the government in its push to privatise other state-owned businesses such as Air India.

Bharat Aluminium Co (Balco), which was bought by Sterlite Industries, an Indian company, said production would resume in four to five days at the Korba plant in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

But it would take about a month to resume full output, which accounts for 15% of India's total aluminium production.

The strike

The strikers had stayed away from work since 3 March to oppose the privatisation deal, which they feared would lead to job losses.

While the workers agreed to return to work they decided to continue with passive protests.

They had demanded the government rescind the sale of Balco to Sterlite.

Largest in the world

Sterlite bought the 51% controlling stake in Balco from the Indian government for 5.51bn rupees ($117.7m) and said it planned to turn the plant into the largest in the world.

Set up in 1965 using technology from the former Soviet Union, Balco's operations include a 200,000-tonne-a-year alumina plant and an aluminium smelter with production capacity of 100,000 tonnes a year.

Early last month, Sterlite group chairman Anil Agarwal estimated losses from the first month of the strike were one billion rupees.

Shares of Sterlite jumped nearly 10% on news the strike was over before falling back to be 2.8% up.

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25 Apr 01 | South Asia
Strike shuts down Bombay
23 Jun 00 | South Asia
India sells state-owned firms
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