Unions up in arms against Govt move to corporatise Ordnance Factory Board

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on May 17, 2020

Trade unions flagged concern over workers being forced to attend duty Kuzma

A joint platform of various federations, associations and trade unions representing 82,000 workers in defence factories under the Union Defence Ministry has threatened indefinite strike protesting what they claim is an “arbitrary” announcement of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to corporatise ordnance factories and list them on the stock markets.

They said ordnance factories performed even in a national emergency like the Covid-19 epidemic but the Centre is working against self reliance and defence preparedness of the country. Terming the decision arbitrary, illegal, unfair, undemocratic and unjustified, they said if the move is not revoked workers will be left with no other option than to commence an indefinite strike.

The federations, which struck work for five days in August, 2019 against the corporatisation move, have sent a letter to Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh raising strong protests. “We fail to understand how corporatisation of ordnance factories have become a part of the Covid-19 relief package,” the joint letter wondered. They reminded the Minister that there are written agreements in the past with the recognised employees’ federations and Government of India that ordnance factories will not be corporatised. “All these agreements are being totally ignored and blatantly violated,” they said.

They said when the country faced shortage of PPEs, masks and sanitisers during the pandemic, ordnance factory workers accepted the challenges and attended the factory regularly and worked day and night. “Apart from this the factories also developed and got NABL Accreditation Certificate for the Blood Penetration Test Equipment,” the letter said. “A democratically elected Government cannot be so much insensitive and thankless. When the negotiations with the Federations on a Strike notice was pending with the Government, ignoring the concerned Trade Unions and arbitrarily deciding to convert the ordnance factories, the oldest Industrial set up in our country, and listing on the share market is not at all acceptable,” they said.

All India Defence Employees Federation general secretary C Srikumar told BusinessLine “The Centre wants to destroy these ordnance factories and hand them over to the corporates. Corporates know that these factories have 60,000 acres of land and plant and machinery worth thousands of crores of rupees. We will not allow sale of national assets to some private Industrialists,” Srikumar said.

Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh general secretary Mukesh Singh condemned the Government's decision of corporatisation of OFB. “We will fight against this decision because it is not in the interest of the nation,” he said.

Published on May 17, 2020

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