Centre refers BPCL workers’ wage dispute to Industrial Tribunals for adjudication

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on August 18, 2021

The 10-year wage agreement for refinery workers has been due since August 1, 2018

The Central Government has referred the dispute over finalisation of a long-term wage settlement for workers at the Mumbai and Kochi refineries of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) to the Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court at Mumbai and Ernakulam, respectively, for adjudication.

The Central government has asked the Industrial Tribunals to adjudicate whether the action of the BPCL management in offering fitment benefits and DA merger at the rate of 12 per cent and 95 per cent as against 15 per cent and 100 per cent respectively, demanded by the Cochin Refineries Workers’ Association and the Petroleum Workmen’s Union in line with the benefits granted to other oil sector Central public sector undertakings is “fair, reasonable and justifiable”, according to separate orders issued by the Union Ministry of Labour on July 27 and August 16.

The Industrial Tribunals have also been asked to adjudicate whether the action of the BPCL management on insisting that the unions sign the memorandum of agreement on long-term wage agreement “with conditions attached as under Sub Clause ‘f’ of Clause I which undermines the role and existence” of the unions, is “fair, just and reasonable”. If not, as to what relief they are entitled to, the Labour Ministry references said.

The 10-year wage agreement for refinery workers was due from August 1, 2018 but has been delayed.

The workers are challenging two contentious issues in the memorandum of agreement drafted by the company on wage settlement.

Clause 1 (f) of the memorandum of agreement (MoA) on wages and other matters states: “The management reserves the right to review and revisit the MoA once every three years, with the first such review due w.e.f. 01.06.2022, and/or as per the terms set out in the Share Purchase Agreement (or any other documentation pursuant to which the privatisation of the Corporation is recorded) whichever, applies and wherever required amend/ modify/ alter the terms and conditions agreed to in this MoA based on profitability, capacity to pay, affordability, sustainability, least cost methodologies deployment, market determined compensation structures & any other factors that may arise. Management shall give 90 days' notice to the Union(s) signatory to this MoA before invoking this clause.”

The workers union claim that this clause grants “unilateral powers to the management” to make changes in the wage agreement from June 1, 2022 and hence was not acceptable to them.

The other issue relate to Dearness Allowance neutralization, fitment and pay scale.

The Tribunals have been asked to give the awards within three months.

The Centre is looking to complete the privatisation of the ‘maharatna’ state-run oil firm by March next year.

Published on August 18, 2021

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