After the unilateral announcement of the Modi Government during May 2020 to transform the 41 Ordnance Factories in to a Corporation, thereby changing the status of 220-year-old pioneer Defence Production Unit of the country, the Defence Civilian Employees of these Factories have started agitating and protesting against the Government decision. After they gave a call for an indefinite strike during Oct. 2020, the Chief Labour Commissioner intervened and the strike was deferred. However, the CLC(C) abruptly closed the conciliation proceedings on 15/06/2021, which enabled the Government to take decision in the Cabinet on 16/06/2021 to disintegrate the 41 Ordnance Factories in to 7 Companies. Against this decision when the Federations of the Defence Civilian Employees decided to revive their postponed indefinite strike the Government instead of treating the demand of the employees as an Industrial Dispute, promulgated a draconian Ordinance banning the strike and imposing imprisonment and fine against the strikers. Subsequently the Ordinance was passed in the Parliament without any discussion. With all these attack from the Government the Defence Civilian Employees and their Trade Unions are fighting against the Government decision. Initially, the Government thought that after the imposition of EDSA-2021, the agitations of the employees of Ordnance Factories will be diluted. However even after almost 2 years there is no sign of waning of the agitations by the employees of ordnance Factories like the Farmers.
www.indianpsu.com which is closely watching the developments in the Ordnance Factories discussed about the ongoing agitation s in Ordnance Factories with a cross section of the employees, officers, Trade Union leaders and retired officers. The general opinion emerged during the survey is that there are no signs that the Defence Civilian Employees of the ordnance Factories may go back from their single point demand of withdrawal of Corporatisation and to continue their status as Central Govt. Employees. The Government is repeatedly giving only few vague statements. The Government says that the 7 Companies which are going to be under operation from 1st October, 2021 will be 100% Governmet-owned and that the interest of the employees would be protected and that the service conditions of the employees during the period of deemed deputation would not be affected. But the employees are not ready to believe the assurance being given by the present Government.
In a Referendum held by the Federations other than INTUC, 99% of the Employees have voted against the Government decision and the Federations have communicated the outcome of the Referendum to the Defence Minister. The Employees and the Officers says that the intention of the Government to splinter the Ordnance Factories is to sell out the 7 companies within a span of 5 years. The Government has already decided no work load will be given to these 7 companies on a nomination basis. The companies have to compete with private sectors, which according to the employees is not possible. Moreover the Finance Minister has already announced that there will be only 4 Public Sector companies in the Defence.
This has created a huge anxiety and worries among the employees of Ordnance Factories and hence they are not prepared to accept the Corporatisation. The act of disintegration has strengthened the belief of the employees that the Government has planned the disinvestment which would happen in very near future. Most of the resources in the Factories are dedicated for special purpose manufacturing and the same cannot be used for alternate manufacturing of civil items. In such situation how the Factories can perform and earn profit. Even the existing the Defence PSUs are struggling and the sales of these PSUs are getting diminished. Apart from the above the employees are very much concerned about the changes which are going to take place in the service conditions. The PSU employees are not having the benefit of Article 311 of the constitution. The safe guards available to the Central Government Employees are not available for PSU Employees. The salary of the Government Employees and Pension are paid from the consolidated fund of India. The Supreme Court has in the past made it clear that the employees of Public Sector are not on par with Government Staff and ruled that exchequer is not liable to meet the requirements of pay revision for personnel of sick PSUs.
The PSU employees have got no legal rights to claim that the Government should pay their salary. It is the responsibility of the Company to pay them salary and not the Government. The worry of the employees who are recruited in the Ordnance Factories after 01/01/2004 is very much justified.
On these issues, C.Srikumar General Secretary of AIDEF stated that “ Pension is the right of every Government Employee. Supreme Court has already ruled Pension is not a gift, not a bounty and not at the mercy of the employer. Pension is a valuable right vested with the Government servant. It helps the Government employees to lead a minimum decent and dignified life after retirement. The Pension of NPS Employees will be determined on the basis of his corpus on retirement taken with the prevailing annuity rates current on superannuation. The NPS Pension is not linked with price rise and therefore no DA is paid on NPS Pension. Since there is no guarantee for commercial viability 7 companies a stage may come when the companies cannot be able to contribute the employer’s contribution to the NPS. At present almost 40,000 employees of the Ordnance Factories are governed under NPS. The insensitive Government have got no concern for these young employees and hence the Federation will continue to fight for their protection and bringing them under the Old Pension Scheme”.
From the survey conducted by www.indianpsu.com, there may be fear and apprehension in the minds of the employees. Even though the INTUC Federation has backed out from the struggle against Corporatisation, the AIDEF, and BPMS along with other Organisations are continuing the battle. One retired officer stated that the Leadership of the Employees who are fighting against the Government are non corrupted and they came to the Leadership from the rank and file of the workers and hence workers have got faith on their leadership. This faith has become a moral booster for the employees and many of them believe that the leadership will not ditch them and they will carry forward the struggle to save the Ordnance Factories and its employees. Baring BJP all the political parties have extended the support to the struggle of the Ordnance Factory employees. States like UP and Uttarakhand where 10 Ordnance Factories were located are going for Assembly Elections in few months. The mood of the workers in these Factories is going to have a very serious impact on the election prospects of the BJP. It all depends upon how the opposition parties like SP, BSP, Congress and Left parties are going to use this opportunity of the anger of the employees and their family members of the Forthcoming elections.