Ordnance factory workers call off strike

Employees of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), who struck work to protest the proposed corporatisation of its factories, have agreed to resume duty from Monday after an assurance that a high-level committee would be set up to address their concerns, a defence ministry statement said on Saturday.

The deadlock was broken late Friday evening after a meeting between Subash Chandra, the newly appointed secretary of the department of defence production, and four employees’ unions. The government has been holding talks with the employees since August 14 but they struck work on August 20.

The employees have been opposing the Centre’s proposal to turn all 41 ordnance factories, which supply arms and ammunition and other equipment exclusively to the Indian armed forces, into public sector entities to introduce greater professionalism in their management, tap resources from the market, and increase the export potential of defence equipment.

“After detailed deliberations, it was agreed to recommend to the government the setting up of a high-level official committee to interact with employees’ federations to examine their concerns and other aspects of the proposed new entity. The federations, on their part, have agreed to withdraw the ongoing strike and continue with the process of dialogue,” the statement said.

A defence ministry spokesperson said all four employees’ unions had decided to withdraw the strike. These are the All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), Indian National Defence Workers Federation (INDWF), Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) and Confederation of Defence Recognized Associations (CDRA).

“OFB plays a critical role in ensuring the military is well supplied and ready for any eventuality. The government is setting up a committee which will consult the federations to examine issues and make suitable recommendations to the government. No final decision has been taken yet about converting the OFB into a corporation…” M.K. Ravindran Pillai, vice president of the AIDEF, said.

A Group of Ministers (GOM) is likely to be formed to chalk out the roadmap for corporatisation. Bu it is still not clear whether all 41 factories will be merged into a single entity or they will be corporatised separately to form different defence public sector undertakings. A committee of experts headed by lieutenant general DB Shekatkar had in the past recommended phased corporatisation of OFB.

SOURCE

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