Strike of Ordnance Factory Employees is legal and justified – Federations tell Government

On the one side the 80,000 strong workforce of Ordnance Factories are on serious preparations for commencing their indefinite strike from 12/10/2020 against Corporatising the Ordnance Factories. The Authorities sitting in the Ministry of Defence are bent upon to satisfy their political bosses to some how disturb the strike of the Employees. One such step was to declare the strike of the Defence Civilian Employees of Ordnance Factories as illegal, even though the Employer is not having any authority to declare a strike illegal. The Competent Authority to declare a strike illegal is the Labour Court. The Department of Defence Production in a letter dtd. 01/10/2020 addressed to the General Secretaries of AIDEF, INDWF & BPMS have directed the Federations that, since their strike is illegal they should withdraw the strike unconditionally within 7 days. Today (07/10/2020) the three Federations have issued a joint letter to the Department of Defence Production, wherein, they have criticized that even the Officers in the DDP who do not know the difference between the “Ordnance” and “Ordinance” are the architects of the ill conceived decision taken by the Government. The Federations have quoted all the Legal provisions and they have clearly justified that their strike is legal and the officials in the DDP are ignorant about these Rules and Provisions of the ID Act 1947. They have categorically stated that their strike is to stop the selling of National assets of OFB at throw away prices after making them sick through Corporatisation, which can be read through any common man with a bit of intelligence. has accessed a copy of the Joint letter of the three Federations and the same is being reproduced here for the benefit of our readers.

It  is  most unfortunate  that  the Government of  India  is  depending  on  such  Officials  for  implementation of  the  Corporatization  of  OFB  as  well  as  to  deal  with  the  Strike  issue  who  doesn’t  know  what  is  “Ordnance”  and  “Ordinance”.  It  is  regretted  that  instead  of  focusing  on  macro  issues,  dealing  with  National  Security  and  Defence  preparedness  the  MoD / DDP  Officials  are  engaged  in  diverting  the  whole  issue.  The  issuance  of  the  above letter  is  one step  in  bullying  with  unfair  power  advantage  that  the  Government has got,  where it  can  stifle  the  voice  of workers  without  any  concern  for  their  security  of  job,  future  existence  of  the  Ordnance Factories  and  with  scant  regard  to  the  Defence  preparedness of  the  Nation.

In  various  forums,  the  Government has  been  raising  concerns  about  performance  of  OFB to  the  extent  of  revealing  Defence  secrets  at  the  cost  of  demoralizing  Soldiers.  It  has  been  never  expected  that  MoD  would  stoop  so  low  to  justify  their  action  based  on  a  Media  offensive,  where  MoD  silence  only  indicate  that  MoD thinks  OFB  is  different from  MoD  and the  same  can  be  carried,  seen  from  the  silence  of  MoD  without  realization  of  the  fact that  MoD  has  got  a  hand  in  performance  or  non performance  of  OFB.  Issue  of this  letter  after  a gap  of  more  than  55  days,  only  shows  the  pace  of  decision  making  of  MoD   in  the  era  of  Industry  4.0.

The  decision  to  going  for  the  Strike was taken  after  exhausting  all  the  avenues  open to  us  and  also  after  giving  enough  time  for  MoD  to  take  a  favorable  decision  on our  strike  demands. It  is  further  mentioned  that  this  decision  is not  taken  based  on  assumption,  presumption,  apprehension  or  without  factual  reasons,  as is  being  made  out  by  the  MoD  vide  its  letter  quoted  under  reference  above.

In this  connection  we  invite  your  kind  attention  to  the  press  meet  of  Honorable Finance  Minister  on  16-5-2020  in  which  she  has  unilaterally  and  unambiguously  informed  that  the  Government  has  decided   to  Corporatize  the  Ordnance  Factory  Board  with  its  listing  in  the  Stock  Exchange.   She has  also  announced  the  policy  of  the  Government  that  the  PSUs  will be  privatized  and  in  strategic  sector  there  will be  only  four  PSUs  with  the  Government.  The DDP  is  already  having  9  PSUs  under  its  control. It is also pertinent to mention here that the Hon’ble Prime Minister while addressing a conclave as Chief Minister of Gujarat has categorically mentioned that the birth of PSUs are only for its death, i.e. its closure. After  the decision  of  the  Cabinet  Committee  on Security to  Corporatize  the  Ordnance Factories,  in  the  terms  of  reference  given  to  the  EGoM  it  is clearly  stated “Conversion of Ordnance Factory Board in to a single Defence Public Sector undertaking (DPSU) or as Multiple DPSUs. Moreover  once  the  OFB  becomes  a  Corporation /  Multiple  Corporations, the  employees  will not  get  salary  and  other  benefits  from  the  consolidated  fund of  India/  Defence  service  estimates.  Their  service  conditions  will undergo  a  complete  change. Therefore  the  statement  made  by  the  MoD  in  its  letter  dated  01-10-2020,  that  we are  relying  on  assumptions  and  apprehensions are  not  tenable.

We thought it fit to remind the DDP about the existence of the “Rules for Recognition of Unions” which was brought into by the Ministry of Defence. Under the said rule, a form has been provided for notice of strike to be given by recognised Unions of the employees of the Defence Installations. The said format is replica of Form – L provided under the Industrial Disputes Rules and we have issued the strike notice by following the said format. Therefore, the requirement under Section – 22 (4) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 read with Rule – 71 (1) of the Industrial Disputes (Central) Rules, 1957 has been complied with.

Again we thought it fit to inform the DDP that, the informing of five elected representatives of workmen, which is known as “Five-man committee” is necessitated where there is no Union. Here, the recognised federations have invoked the provisions of the ID Act and the Rules for recognition of Union and issued a strike notice.

The reasons for the strike has clearly explained in the explanatory note, and this has been annexed along with the strike notice. The Paragraph – 3 (iv) of your notice dated 01.10.2020 is clearly vouch for the same.

The federations have never contradicted from its stand. The Ordnance Factories are national assets, and they stood with the nation in all situation whether it is a war or a pandemic. But, it is to be noted that, though the workmen are working in the industry which is a public utility service, still have the right to strike under the Industrial Disputes Act and that has been rightly invoked by the Federations.

The unfounded allegation of defects in the strike notice quoted by the DDP in its letter dated 01.10.2020, shows that the DDP was misguided and desperate to stop the strike by using illegal means. The said actions of the DDP is nothing but unfair labour practice and thereby illegal.

It is pertinent to mention here that, under the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 the employer has not empowered to decide about the validity of the strike or the strike notice, and therefore the DDP has no authority to term our strike notice as untenable and illegal.

The Section – 23 (a) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 would be applicable when the conciliation is pending before a Board, which has been constituted under Section – 5 of the ID Act. Here, no such Board of Conciliation has been constituted and therefore this allegation is also untenable.

Without prejudice to the above, we are prepared to attend the meeting before the CLC(C) on 09.10.2020, and the federations will decide the further course of action, by taking into consideration of the outcome of the said meeting.

The  voice  of  workers  through  the  Federations  is  against  such  irrational  decision  taken by the  Government. The  strike notice  served by the  Federations  would  try  to  protect  against  the long  distance  selling  of  the  National  Assets  of  OFB  at  throw  away  prices  after  making them  sick  through  Corporatization,  which  can  be  read  through  any  common man  with  a bit  of  intelligence.  Thus  all the  more  it  is  important  for  the  workers  to  fight  against  the  injustice  for  an  infrastructure  they  have  built  despite  the  tantrums  and  lack  of  support  of  MoD,  which  has  been instrumental  in  the  so  called  failing  of  OFB.  Thus  Federations  invoke  the spirit  of  the  Father of  Nation  and  would  be  looking  to the  only mechanism  available  with them  for  peaceful  struggle  of  life  and  death  for  the  service  conditions  of  employees that are in National Interest  for  preservation  of  War  Reserve.

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