OFB’s split into 7 DPSUs: Federations of RSS, Left, Cong to issue strike notice on July 1

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The Ordnance Factory Board is headquartered in Kolkata. (Express Archive)

DAYS after the government decided to convert Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) into seven Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), the federations of ordnance factory workers affiliated to the Left, the RSS and Congress have said in a joint circular that they will serve the notice for an indefinite strike on July 1 and commence the nationwide strike on July 19 against the government’s decision.

The BJP-led Union government had on Wednesday announced its decision to dissolve the 220-year-old Kolkata-headquartered OFB and restructure it into seven new DPSUs, which will govern the 41 ordnance factories across the country and be fully owned by the government. The seven corporate entities are expected to be formed by the end of 2021. The three federations that have put up a united front against this move are All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) of Left unions, Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), an arm of RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) of the Indian National Trade Union Congress.

On Sunday, the presidents and general secretaries of the three federations held a virtual meeting. A joint circular issued after the meeting stated, “The meeting took a very serious note of the manner in which the government has dismantled the ordnance factories and sabotaged the future of the committed workforce of these factories. The meeting also expressed its serious concerns of various violations by the government.”

The circular added that among various decisions taken during the meeting were, “To explore the possibility of legal action in consultation with senior lawyers…It has been decided to serve the strike notice for indefinite strike on July 1 and commence the nationwide indefinite strike on July 19. The decision of commencement of the indefinite strike will be informed to the government on June 23.”

The circular concludes, “The federations call upon the employees of ordnance factories to understand the serious implications of the government decision to splinter the ordnance factories into seven corporations, on the existence and survival of the majority of factories and also the serious repercussions on the service matters, job security, wage protection, terminal benefits etc and be prepared to fight back…”

Federation officebearers said that Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) will be served the notice on July 1 while regional labour commissioners will be served notices by the regional workers’ bodies. The copy of notice will also be served to the employer, the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence. The three federations were to go on strike on October 12 last year but had deferred as conciliation talks through the Chief Labour Commissioner were launched. In spite of strong opposition from the three main worker federations, the Ministry of Defence had been taking concrete steps towards converting the OFB into 100 per cent government-owned corporate entities. The OFB, an umbrella body for ordnance factories and related institutions, is currently a subordinate office of the MoD and is a conglomerate of 41 factories, nine training Institutes, three regional marketing centres and five regional controllers of safety.

While at least three committees on defence reforms set up by the governments between 2000 and 2015 have recommended corporatisation, it had not been implemented till now. The notion of corporatisation was listed as one of the 167 ‘transformative ideas’ to be implemented in the first 100 days of the Narendra Modi government’s second term. One of the main apprehensions of the employees is that corporatisation would “eventually lead to privatisation”. Another key concern has been that the corporate entities will not be able to survive the unique market environment of defence products that has very unstable demand and supply dynamics. They also fear job losses.

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