Friday, August 12, 2022

Day 1: BPCL strike sees strong 84% turnout; ops at Kochi, Mumbai refinery hit, say unions

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  • The 48-hour strike by workers at BPCL has turned into a strong workers’ protest, said the trade unions

  • A workers’ union leader said that the strike has impacted operations as over 95 percent workmen took part at all locations

New Delhi: On day one of the 48-hour-long strike, a total of 4,570 workers out of a total strength of 5,386, led by 13 trade unions at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited’s (BPCL) Mumbai, Kochi Refinery and from its marketing department, took part. In percentage terms, the total turnout was 84 percent. “The 48-hour strike by workers at Bharat Petroleum Corporation against the management’s move to impose favourable conditions on privatisation under the guise of pay reform has turned into a strong workers’ protest,” an official statement released by the trade unions said on Monday.

The trade unions have claimed that the long term settlement (LTS) offered by the management is an “eyewash” as it makes provision for the new owner to revoke or modify any benefit promised to the unions in the document, which effectively nullifies the agreement. Alleging that the BPCL management is deviating from DPE guidelines to the workers and thereby, reducing benefits, the trade unions are on a two-day nationwide strike on September 7 and 8 to protest against the issue.

Why are the unions opposing the LTS?

"The BPCL Management has invited this strike with their adamant stand. An offer, if signed, will reduce the monetary benefits and will make workmen lose other benefits which are already enjoyed by them. No guarantees for even the signed benefits for atleast one year of signing the LTS cannot be accepted by the Unions. Further, the offer is inferior to the earlier one in terms of entry grade basic and pay scales. We demand only the minimum ensured by the government through the 3rd pay revision committee report and related DPE guidelines. It is our right and not a favour granted by the BPCL management," Praveenkumar P, General Secretary of Cochin Refineries Employees Association (INTUC), told PSU Watch.

Aji MG, General Secretary of Cochin Refineries Workers’ Association, said, “The terms of the 10-year service contract were to be signed after June 2022, giving the BPCL management the right to review the contract as per the new management position. The BPCL management and the Central government have repeatedly stated that the privatisation of BPCL will take place before March 2021.”

“In this case, if the right to amend the terms of the contract from June 2022 is already signed by the management, the post-privatisation management (strategic buyer) will be empowered to make any changes in the terms of service of the workers,” said MG, adding that the condition has been laid down only in the interest of the strategic buyer and not in the interest of workmen. 

PF, gratuity to be available only if BPCL remains a PSU?

The other condition in the LTS that has prompted the unions to opt for direct action is that the management wants them to accept the condition that retirement benefits, including PF and gratuity, will be available only if BPCL remains in the public sector. 

Also read: An LTS clause has prompted BPCL workers to go on nationwide strike in Sep. What does it say?

“The management is of the view that when all the benefits received by the Officers of all other oil companies were given to BPCL officers in 2017 itself, the workers of BPCL would not be given the same benefits as the workers of other oil companies and were not ready for any discussion in this regard,” said MG.

Operations impacted at Mumbai, Kochi refineries

MG said that the strike has impacted operations as the turnout was over 95 percent at all locations. “At Mumbai refinery, the turnout was around 95 percent. In east Kolkata, all locations were shut. And at Kochi refinery, the Vacuum Gas Oil (VGO), Sulphur Recovery Units (SRU)-1, & 2, Hydrogen and 50 percent of Delayed Coker Unit(DCU) unit was out of operation.”

The unions have also accused the management of foul play as they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) stating that the unions representing 88 percent of the workers will not participate in the negotiations, but only one union (which has the support of only eight percent of the workers) will take part. 

(PSU Watch– India's Business News centre that places the spotlight on PSUs, Bureaucracy, Defence and Public Policy is now on Telegram. Join PSU Watch Channel in your Telegram and stay updated)

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