Oil tanker workers affiliated to Assam Petroleum Mazdoor Union (APMU) on Monday began an indefinite strike demanding minimum wages and other benefits like provident fund. Oil marketing companies, including IOC, BPCL and HPCL, have termed their demands as “illogical and baseless” as they are employed by transporters and not the PSU firms.
“We have started the indefinite strike against IOC, BPCL and HPCL. We are demanding minimum wages, PF, insurance and ESI benefits,” APMU general secretary Ramen Das told PTI in Guwahati. He said APMU held talks with the three companies in November last year, but did not yield any result. When pointed out that APMU workers are employed by the transporters and not the retailers, Das said: “We went to the transporters and they refused to pay us. IOC and others have not been able to implement the tender conditions with the transporters. The companies must force the transporters.”
Reacting to the demands, IOC Executive Director (IndianOil-AOD) Dipankar Ray said the company is always proactive to resolve the issues and has been asking the workers for specific complaints to take action against the erring transporters, but nobody has come to them. “Their demands to us are illogical and baseless as they are not our employees. How can we pay to them? They are hired by the transporters, whom we engage trough a tender process.
“The company’s contracts with the transporters take into account the government notified minimum wages to workers. Now if some transporters are not paying the minimum wages to its employees, we can force them to pay provided the workers give us specific complaints,” he added.
He informed that IOC follows the government norm of minimum wages of Rs 450.62 per day for drivers and Rs 309 for the helper in each truck. Ray said the striking workers have physically prevented some willing truck drivers, who wanted to come and take supplies from the depots.
Talking about the scenario, he said: “Though locations outside Assam are by and large unaffected by this strike, but it will choke other places in North East soon as all the four refineries of the region are in Assam. So we have sought intervention from the government. Around 4,500 tankers for both LPG and petroleum
products are registered with IOC in entire North East. BPCL Territory Manager (Retail) Suresh Chandra Jha said loading and offloading at their sites have also been affected on Monday. “We are monitoring the situation, but nothing to be worried immediately. Around 320 tankers run for BPCL under contract agreement,” he added.
HPCL Senior Regional Manager Avijit Bhattacharjee said the company can do nothing in this regard as the issues are between the workers and transporters – the employer. All the three PSU companies IOC, BPCL and HPCL together control over 97 per cent market share in North East and they keep an average three days of stock at the petrol pumps.
The rest of the market is enjoyed by private players like Reliance and Essar.