Three federations of defence manufacturing workers have called for a ballot between June 8 and 17 for an indefinite strike across 41 ordnance factories against the government’s decision to corporatise Ordnance Factories Board (OFB). The announcement comes at a time when most of the 41 ordnance factories in the country are set to resume manufacturing with full staff.
In the fourth tranche of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had on May 16 announced the decision of Corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for improving autonomy, accountability and efficiency in Ordnance Suppliers, and raising Foreign Direct Investment limit in defence manufacturing under automatic route from 49 per cent to 74 per cent, as part of the ‘self-reliance in defence production’ part. The three key unions, which are affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Congress and the Left, had unanimously opposed these decisions.
The unions have earlier called the government decision “a breach of trust and stab in the back”.
In a joint letter to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on May 17, the three federations had said, “The 82,000-strong workforce of the Indian Ordnance Factories outright rejects the decision and makes an appeal to put on hold this decision of Corporatisation of Ordnance Factories and to start discussions with the federations after normalcy is restored in the country. In case the government is not conceding to our request, then the 82,000 employees will be left with no other option than to commence an indefinite strike apart from other trade union actions.”
The general secretaries of the Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) — an arm of RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) affiliated to the CPM’s CITU and the Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) of the Congress’s INTUC issued a another joint statement on Tuesday. The statement read, “In spite of our repeated representation to Defence Minister and the Defence Production Secretary, there is no positive response and hence the federations are left with no other option than to go for an indefinite strike, demanding the government withdraw its decision to corporatise the ordnance factories. The date of the commencement of the strike will be decided after the completion of the strike ballot, which is scheduled between June 8 to June 17 throughout the country.”
The three unions together represent over 85 per cent of the 82,000-strong work force of the ordnance factories. The strike ballots are secret ballots held among the members of trade unions on whether to go on a strike or not. A strike is called when majority of workers vote in favour of it.
With the relaxation of lockdown across the country, the ordnance factories are set to start functioning with full strength, except for those located in containment zones.
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