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Here begins official clampdown in BPCL against Nov 28 strike

The BPCL management has urged employees to call off the planned strike on November 28 or face pay cuts and disciplinary action
New Delhi: Days after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its nod to the disinvestment of state-run BPCL, the management has urged employees to call off the planned strike on November 28 or face pay cuts and disciplinary action. The CCEA on November 20 approved the proposal to sell the government’s stake in five PSUs— BPCL, Container Corporation of India (CONCOR), Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), THDC and NEEPCO. The news was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at a press conference late on Wednesday night. The CCEA also decided to carve out Numaligarh Refinery from BPCL and retain it as a PSU before disinvesting its 53.29 percent stake in BPCL.

'Reconsider BPCL strike'

A letter, accessed by PSU Watch, has been sent to the general secretaries of employee associations in various regions at BPCL. It has been signed by Director (HR) K Padmakar. While assuring employees that the management is making all the efforts to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders to the best extent possible, the letter urged employees to make sure that business continues without any disruptions. “We… urge you to kindly reconsider your plans to proceed on a day’s strike for 24 hours between 28.11.19 to 29.11.19. We hope that wiser counsel will prevail in the overall interest of BPCL and your union would be pragmatic in re-considering the strike decision and cancel those plans,” the letter said. [caption id="attachment_17980" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Alt="BPCL strike" A copy of the letter sent by BPCL Director (HR) to general secretaries of employee unions.[/caption]

'8-day pay cut, disciplinary action if strike takes place'

A notice, addressed to “all workmen” of BPCL and signed by Chief General Manager (HRS), said that proceeding with the strike during pendency of conciliation proceedings is prohibited under Section 22 of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947. It also said, “Since the decision is already conveyed by the government and due processes will unfold, striking work at this point in time would not serve any purpose and would only lead to avoidable disruptions in fuel supplies as well as highly avoidable wage and penal wage deductions of 8 days, if the strike takes place. Besides this, it would also lead to unnecessary disciplinary processes if the circumstances so warrant.” [caption id="attachment_17981" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Alt="BPCL strike" A copy of the notice sent to heads of employee unions/associations at BPCL by the management.[/caption]

So, are BPCL unions still going to strike?

Commenting on the letter and the notice sent by the management, trade unions have said that the strike will happen, despite warning from the management. “We are unfazed by the warning issued by the management, threatening salary cuts. This is a matter that pertains to the welfare of the employees who have established this Maharatna public sector company. So, we are not going to stop. And the unilateral way in which the Modi government has been pursuing its disinvestment agenda, it looks likely that this is going to be a long struggle, going beyond the next strike. And we are prepared for it, said Brijmohan, General Secretary of Petroleum Employees Union (Northern region). He added that a protest took place outside BPCL office in Noida on Friday to protest against the Cabinet’s November 20 decision. [caption id="attachment_17982" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Alt="BPCL strike" Employees gathered outside the BPCL office in Noida on Friday to protest against the CCEA decision to privatise BPCL.[/caption] In Mumbai, Kishore Nair from Bharat Petroleum Technical and Non-Technical Employees Association said, “The management here has also approached the High Court, seeking an injunction on the strike. But the court has ruled in our favour and the strike is going to happen.” Aji MG, General Secretary of the Cochin Refineries Workers Association, also said that the strike is happening. [caption id="attachment_17983" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Alt="BPCL strike" Employees at BPCL Kochi Refinery formed a human wall at the entrance to the refinery on Friday to protest against BPCL privatisation.[/caption] He also added, “We held a demonstration today as well outside BPCL Kochi refinery where 10,000 people took part and formed a human wall. We are also planning a total hartal on November 28 in Ernakulam district. We are very clear about our strategy. If the asset valuer comes to Kochi refinery, we will block the asset valuer. They will not be allowed to enter the premises. Also, the strategic partner, who ends up buying BPCL, will be told that it will be difficult for them to carry on operations at the refinery because locals will not cooperate.”

The backdrop

At a national convention on November 20 in New Delhi, trade unions representing employees from across the oil sector had said that the strike on November 28 against BPCL privatisation would be the biggest so far and will see participation from employees in oil sector across India. A statement released at the convention said that a total of 21 BPCL, HPCL and MRPL unions have already served a strike notice for one-day strike on November 28.