Left, RSS, Congress unions threaten stir against Centre’s move of replacing OFB with corporate entities

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 Union government’s decision to dissolve the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and replace it by seven new Defence Public Sector Undertakings has been opposed by three recognised federations of the ordnance factory workers with affiliations to the Left, RSS and Congress.

The federations threatened to launch a joint agitation if the decision is not revoked.

The three federations include the All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) which is affiliated to the Left, the Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), an arm of RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, and the Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) of the Indian National Trade Union Congress.

BPMS general secretary Mukesh Singh said, “We strongly condemn the draconian decision of the government and are determined to fight it. Yesterday, the conciliation mechanism with the Chief Labour Commissioner came to an end abruptly due to the adamant stand taken by government’s representatives. We are also in consultation with the other two recognised federations of employees.”

C Srikumar and R Srinivasan, General Secretaries of AIDEF and INDWF respectively, said that all three federations would launch a joint agitation against the government’s move.

In April, the three federations had complained to the Chief Labour Commissioner of India that their employer, the Department of Defence Production (DDP) of the Defence Ministry, was “blatantly violating” the conciliation settlement reached between them in October last year when the federations had deferred their strike against corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board.

“While the federations and the trade unions at the unit level are fully implementing the conciliation settlement, the DDP has started violating the settlement by issuing a letter allowing the consultancy firms to proceed with its work,” the federations had said in their complaint.

The OFB, an umbrella body for the ordnance factories and related institutions, is currently a subordinate office of the Union Ministry of Defence.

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” and job losses.

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