Corporatisation: Govt threatens action; Ordnance staff to still strike

Corporatisation: Govt threatens action; Ordnance staff to still strike

Ordnance factory employee unions, whose representatives met with the additional secretary-defence production, ministry of defence (MoD), on Wednesday, are firm on their proposed 30-day strike from August 20, that will bring ordnance production to standstill unless the government withdraws its proposal to corporatise Ordnance factories.

And, TOI has now learnt that the government, through the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) has threatened action, including wage cuts and denial of casual leave to the striking staff. The move comes ahead of the second meeting between MoD and employee unions, which is scheduled for Friday (August 16).

In a circular issued on Thursday (August 15) evening—a government holiday—Niraj Kela, deputy director general (industrial relations) at OFB, argues: “Despite the efforts made by the OFB/MoD, the federations are persisting with their agitation programme of 30-day strike. In such circumstances, we will follow the directives of the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) dated September 17, 2018 that state no casual leave or any kind of leave is granted to employees.”

Directing all general managers (GMs) to issue detailed instructions of all other previous directives of DOPT, the circular reads: “…All these directives must be strictly complied with. The GMs shall again bring to the notice of all employees instructions issued by DOPT pertaining to participation in any strike/mass boycott of work etc.”

Besides issuing a slew of other directions to the GMs to ensure the safety of those workers willing to work on the days of the strike, the circular also seeks an attendance report from each of the 41 ordnance factories.

However, employee unions are still firm with their decision. “The DOPT directives are for Central Government employees who are not covered under the Industrial Disputes Act. In our case, we come under this act and we have followed all the procedures—intimating the OFB and the government about the strike, serving advance notices etc—and this is just an arm-twisting tactic, ahead of our meeting tomorrow,” C Srikumar, general secretary, All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), told TOI.

The MoD has not committed to meeting the employees demand at the end of the two-hour meeting between 2pm and 4pm Wednesday, the unions said, adding that they will launch the month-long strike from August 20, as a first phase of their agitation and that they could further extend the strike in the future.

“A team of senior officials led by Additional Secretary, Department of Defence Production along with Chairman Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) met office bearers of the employee unions on the issue of strike notice given by them starting August 20… Both parties constructively engaged themselves in a candid and open discussion of each other’s’ viewpoint. It was decided to keep the process of dialogue open to arrive at a mutual understanding,” MoD said in a statement.

The unions — All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), Indian National Defence Workers Federation (INDWF), Bhartiya Pratiksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), in a joint statement said that their main and only plea was that the “government withdraw its proposal to corporatise OFB.”

“The meeting was inconclusive. Officials reiterated that this is a government decision and that our concerns will be raised to the highest officials. They also offered to consider our service terms (terms under which we are willing to work post corporatisation). When our only demand is that there should be no corporatisation, there is no question of service terms,” the source added.

TNN