SOURCE: INDIA TODAY
The government is making attempts to stave off the October 12 indefinite strike called by the three main unions of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The chief labour commissioner, working under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, on Monday called the OFB unions for a meeting with defence ministry officials in New Delhi on October 9 to try and avert the strike.
The unions gave the strike call on August 4 protesting the government’s decision to corporatise the 41 ordnance factories. The government wants the factories, which currently work as attached offices to the MoD’s department of defence production, to become one or more than one 100 per cent government-owned corporate entities.
The chief labour commissioner wants two representatives from each of the three unions — All India Defence Employees Federation (INDEF), Indian National Defence Workers Federation (AIDEF) and the Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) located in Jabalpur, Chennai and Kanpur — to travel to Delhi for a face-to-face meeting.
The INDEF, AIDEF and the BPMS, three major trade unions affiliated to the Congress, Left parties and the RSS respectively, had issued a call for an unprecedented nation-wide strike beginning on October 12 this year. The three unions collectively represent a bulk of over 80,000 ordnance factory employees working in 41 factories across the country. “The three unions are different ideologically and politically but we are fighting for a common cause,” R Srinivasan, general secretary of the INDEF said.
The strike call comes even as tensions rise on the border with both Pakistan and China. A stand-off between the Indian Army — the OFB’s largest customer — and the PLA in eastern Ladakh has entered its sixth month with no signs of a resolution. The army needs cold weather tents and high altitude clothing made by the ordnance factories to clothe and protect its troops from the approaching winter in Ladakh. Pakistan has resorted to heavy unprovoked shelling along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, the most recent instance being in the Nowshera sector on October 5.
The OFB unions had gone on an indefinite strike on August 14 last year, but it was called off after 10 days, following a meeting with the secretary (Defence Production). The workers were assured that their concerns would be taken into account before the factories were corporatised.