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Pune: More Than 7000 Defence Manufacturing Workers Go On Strike

The agitation is part of a nationwide month-long strike of over 82,000 ordnance workers from 41 factories, against the proposed "corporatisation" of the factories by the government.

In Pune, more than 7,000 workers from three key Defence manufacturing units went on a strike on the morning of Tuesday, August 20. As per a report in The Indian Express, production has been brought to a complete halt as a result of the strike.

The agitation, reportedly, is part of a nationwide month-long strike of over 82,000 ordnance workers from 41 factories, against the proposed “corporatisation” of the factories by the government. Per the report, almost all civilian workers from the Ammunition Factory in Khadki, High Explosives Factory in Khadki and Ordnance Factory in Dehu Road in Pune began the strike at the respective factory gates from 7 am.

The workers are affiliated to three major unions: the All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) affiliated to the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), part of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

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In a letter to Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the general secretaries of the three unions wrote, “The fact is that the future life of more than 82,000 employees and their family members will be ruined in case the Ordnance Factories become a corporation or PSU. Out of 82,000 employees, more than 44,000 are recruited after January 2004 and at the age group of 25 to 40 years. They have all joined the Ordnance Factories with a lot of aspiration and expectations. Their pension right is already taken away since they are governed under the no guarantee NPS Pension Scheme. They have planned their life requirements based on the present income, which they are getting as wages from the Ordnance Factories. All these will be completely disturbed and destroyed for no fault of theirs. All of them, including the young talented officers and workers, are worried about their future, which has now become uncertain. Therefore, in the interest of national security and achieving self-reliance in defence, the decision of corporatisation of OFB (Ordnance Factory Board) may be withdrawn.”

They further wrote, “For the past 218 years, the ordnance factories have been kept as a departmental organisation… considering the special nature of defence Industry like volatility, non-uniform demand from Armed Forces and Paramilitary forces, uneconomic quantities to be produced to meet strategic needs etc., which a public sector or corporation will not be able to manage. Ordnance factories are the fourth force of the defence of our country and to be treated as ‘war reserve’, at par with the armed forces to maintain idle capacities to take care of a surge in demand in an emergent war situation. In a purely commercial term, maintaining idle capacity would be detrimental to the business interests of the corporation / PSU. Therefore, ordnance factories should continue as a Departmental Organisation.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, an office-bearer of one of the unions participating in the strike had said, “The Ministry of Defence, in a letter to all the factory heads, has warned about invoking the Essential Services Management Act and said that the strike may be deemed illegal if the Act is invoked. On the one hand, the government is going for corporatisation and on the other hand, threatening to invoke ESMA. All the organisations will go ahead with the strike.”

Also Read: India’s Manufacturing Sector Slows To An Eight-month Low: PMI Report

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