Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Must Read: Status report on disinvestment of SCI

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New Delhi: At a time when public sector employees in companies slated for disinvestment are making themselves heard through petitions, agitations, strike and social media campaigns etc, there seems to be a lull at Shipping Corporation of India (SCI). Except for the news emerging from government’s official corridors, nothing is known about how employees are reacting to the proposal in mainstream media and on social media. So, what’s happening at SCI?

The government’s disinvestment plan for SCI

SCI is one of the five PSUs which are on the government’s disinvestment list for FY 2019-20. The Centre is looking to offload its stake in SCI and transfer management control to a private owner. In a notification released on October 14, the government said, without mentioning the name of the PSU it was referring to and the quantum of shareholding it is looking to offload, “DIPAM in the process of strategic disinvestment of GoI equity shareholding in a CPSE under the administrative control of Ministry of Shipping, alongwith transfer of management, on the behalf of government of India, requires the services of a reputed Asset Valuer.”

The government currently holds 63.75 percent stake in SCI.

What are employees’ unions planning?

Speaking to PSU Watch, Manoj Yadav, General Secretary of Forward Seamen’s Union of India (FSUI), said that the most recent agitation took place on November 11 in Kolkata and SCI employees across various locations in the country sent out letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In Mumbai, however, protests have been on hold because of Assembly elections. “In Mumbai, protests are going to start just before the government is formed as the SCI premises are under Section 144. So, we have to seek permission for strike,” said Yadav.

Alt="Disinvestment: So, do you know what is happening at SCI?"
SCI employees during a protest at Kolkata office on November 11.

Other trade unions at SCI — the Shipping Corporation of India Officers’ Association and the Shipping Corporation of India Staff Union — submitted a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in October, asking the government to re-consider the disinvestment of SCI.

Alt="Disinvestment: So, do you know what is happening at SCI?"
A copy of the letter that SCI employees from various regional offices of the PSU have sent to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Employees speak about what’s going on at SCI

According to Yadav, at least 2,000 employees at SCI are engaged on contractual basis rotationally. “Among these employees, there’s a view that they will not be impacted if SCI is disinvested. Because they will continue to be engaged with the organisation in the manner that they do now, which is either for a period of three months, six months or nine months. The other set of employees, who are permanently employed with SCI, have been making representations. And there’s hardly a lull,” Yadav claimed.

Another source at SCI, who refused to be identified, said that a large number of employees at SCI are nearing retirement and are aged around 50-55 years. “The chorus against disinvestment is not as shrill as at other organisations because a sizeable number of employees are nearing retirement are hoping to get a voluntary retirement scheme,” the source said.

What about SCI’s financial performance?

SCI’s financials have been in the red in Q1 of FY2019-20 and financial year 2018-19. In Q1FY20, SCI posted a net loss of Rs 39.36 crore and in the financial year ended March 31, 2019, the net loss stood at Rs 121.99 crore. However, previous to FY2018-19, the organisation posted a net profit of Rs 306.5 crore in FY 2017-18 and Rs 182.38 crore in FY 2016-17.

Commenting on the financial status of the company, Yadav said that if the government wants to improve SCI’s financial health, then the way to do it would be to address the issues with management. “It does not call for giving away the company and its assets to a private owner. It will lead to a monopoly in the shipping sector. Besides, leaving India’s ports in the hands of the private sector will pose a serious threat to India’s maritime security.” According to Yadav, the decision to disinvest SCI is part of the government’s anti-labour policies and has nothing to do with the company’s financial health. “At the end of the day, we are talking about a Navratna company. And why is the government selling other PSUs, like BPCL, that are profitable?” Yadav asked.

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