The federations of defence manufacturing workers from 41 ordnance factories across the country have said they will go on an indefinite strike from October 12 against the government’s move to corporatise the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB). The notice for this strike will be issued to the respective units on August 4.
Office-bearers of the federations said that considering the Covid pandemic, a period of close to nine weeks has been kept between the date of strike notice and commencement of the strike, as against the stipulated period of six weeks.
On Tuesday, representatives from the federations had attended a meeting called by top officials from the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The meeting was attended by the representatives of the All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) — a federation of Left unions, Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) — an arm of RSS affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, and the Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) — of the Congress’s INTUC. Along with these federations of factory workers, the meeting was also attended by leaders of Confederation of Defence Recognised Associations (CDRA), which is a confederation of employees of ordnance factories other than workers.
The leaders of these federations held a meeting among themselves on Wednesday and the outcome of these talks was announced on Thursday. The joint statement by the four federations issued on Thursday read, “From the initial remarks of the Secretary, Defence Production, it was clear that the government is going ahead with its decision of corporatisation. Therefore, the meeting was of the unanimous view that the date of the issue of the strike notice and the date of commencement of the indefinite strike should be decided and communicated to the government.”
The statement further read, “The Secretary, DP, in the meeting held on July 28, has assured that he will communicate the concerns expressed by the employees’ representatives against corporatisation of OFB to the Defence Minister at the earliest. If no communication is received from the Ministry of Defence about the decision of the Defence Minister by July 31, a joint letter will be issued to the Secretary, DP, and Defence Secretary, informing them about our decision to issue the strike notice on August 4 and to commence the indefinite strike from October 12.” There are close to 82,000 workers in 41 factories across the country and BPMS, AIDEF and INDWF represent over 85 per cent of the workforce.
In the fourth tranche of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had on May 16 announced the decision of Corporatisation of the OFB for ‘improving autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance suppliers. The federations have argued that a corporate entity would not be able to survive the unique market environment of defence products that has a very unstable demand and supply dynamics.
August 4 has been chosen as the date for serving strike as it is the day opening bids for the Expression of Interest (EOI) cum Request for Proposal (RPF) invited by the Ministry of Defence for hiring a consultant for the process of corporatisation. As part of the procedure, the strike notice will be given to the Chief Labour Commissioner in Delhi also to Regional Labour Commissioners and authorities of the respective factories or OFB establishments.
All the central trade unions have decided to observe August 9, the ‘Save India Day.’ As a preparatory action for the forthcoming strike it has been decided that groups of employees from unions will observe fast or lunch boycott batch wise in all the Ordnance Factories and quality assurance units inside the Ordnance Factory Complex from from August 5 to August 8.
The joint statement of the federations also states, “The unions and federations of the Coal Sector have decided to observe a one day strike on August 18 on the day the government opens the tender for allotment of Coal Blocks to the private sectors. Trade Unions of Defence employees will extend solidarity and support to the striking Coal Workers against privatisation of the Coal Mines by holding demonstrations, wearing solidarity badges etc depending upon the local situation.”
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