More than 7,000 workers from three key Defence manufacturing units in Pune went on a strike from Tuesday morning, bringing production to a complete halt. The agitation is part of a nationwide month-long strike of over 82,000 ordnance workers from 41 factories, against the proposed ‘corporatisation’ of the factories by the government.
Almost all civilian workers from the Ammunition Factory in Khadki, the High Explosives Factory in Khadki and the Ordnance Factory in Dehu Road in Pune began the strike at the respective factory gates from 7 am. Local police had deployed force as a precautionary measure.
The civilian workers affiliated to three major unions are part of the strike — All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) affiliated to Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), which is the part of the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Some key organisations of officers from the ordnance factories have declared moral support to the strike.
In a letter to Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the General Secretaries of the three unions had said, “The fact that the future life of more than 82000 employees and their family members will be ruined in case Ordnance Factories become a Corporation or PSU. Out of the 82000 employees more than 44000 are recruited after January 2004 and at the age group of 25 to 40 years. They have all joined the Ordnance Factories with lot of aspiration and expectations. Their Pension right is already taken away since they are governed under the no guarantee NPS Pension Scheme. They have planned their life requirement based on the present income which they are getting as wages from the Ordnance Factories. All these will be completely disturbed and destroyed for no fault of theirs. All of them including the young talented Officers and Workers are worried about their future which has now become uncertain. Therefore, in the interest of national security and achieving self reliance in Defence the decision of corporatisation of OFB may be withdrawn.”
A strike ballot for this month-long strike was conducted in last week of July and well over three-fourth of the workers voted in favour it. Thus, all three organisatios decided to go on strike. In Pune’s three factories, all employees, except the Fire brigade, emergency medical staff and essential maintenance staff, joined the strike.