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Kerala HC defers implementation of PRMBS order at BPCL by 2 months

The Kerala HC has admitted a writ petition challenging the BPCL management’s decision to exclude employees with less than 15 years of service from PRMBS
Kerala HC defers implementation of PRMBS order at BPCL by 2 months
Kerala HC defers implementation of PRMBS order at BPCL by 2 months
  • The BPCL management had issued a circular on June 10 amending the eligibility conditions for availing PRMBS
  • The judge observed that she fails to understand how the BPCL management’s

New Delhi: The Kerala High Court (HC) has admitted a writ petition filed by trade unions at the Kochi Refinery of disinvestment-bound Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) challenging the management’s decision to exclude employees with less than 15 years of service from Post Retirement Medical Benefit Scheme (PRMBS). In an interim order issued on July 15, the court has also deferred the implementation of the order by two months. The BPCL management had issued a circular on June 10 amending the eligibility conditions for availing PRMBS. The decision was met with stiff opposition from trade unions at the oil PSU.

“I am of the opinion that the writ petitions require to be admitted by this Court and the issue of violation of the Long Term Settlement requires to be examined. The writ petitions are therefore admitted… Further proceedings pursuant to the impugned circular, including the exclusion of workmen eligible under the Long Term Settlement Scheme from the Post Retirement Medical Benefits Scheme and the transfer of funds to the National Pension Scheme in terms of sub-clause (iii) of clause 2 of the impugned circular shall stand deferred for a period of two months,” said Judge Anu Sivaraman in the order.

Judge questions rationality of BPCL’s PRMBS decision

The judge observed that she fails to understand how the BPCL management’s contention that the decision to exclude employees, who do not have 15 years of service on June 1, 2021, from PRMBS is a matter of interpretation of a clause in the Long Term Settlement. “The provision in Ext.P3, even if it is admitted that it was one of the Office Memoranda made applicable in terms of the Long Term Settlement, only provides that an employee to be eligible should have put in 15 years of service as on the date of his superannuation. By no stretch of imagination can it be contended that the requirement can be arbitrarily altered by the employer to a particular cut off date, that is 1.6.2021, which has apparently no basis or rationale at all,” said the judge.

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“Further, the contention that the question whether the Long Term Settlement stands violated at all is a question of fact which can be decided only after taking evidence also cannot be accepted,” said the order.

Background

The workers and unions have contended in the writ petition that excluding employees with less than 15 years of service from the ambit of PRMBS is “directly against the provisions of the long-term (wage) settlement entered into between the respondent Corporation (BPCL) and its employees and is therefore illegal.” 

In the notification released on June 10, BPCL had said, “In case of these employees, any contributions made on their behalf by the Corporation towards PRMBS from 01.012007 or their respective date of joining, whichever is later, will be transferred to the respective employees’ National Pension Scheme (NPS). Consequently, future contribution towards PRMBS from the 30 percent of retirement benefits would also be discontinued and instead transferred to their respective NPS accounts.”

Explaining the rationale behind its decision, BPCL had said, “Keeping in mind the long term viability of the Scheme, it has been decided to redo the eligibility criteria for the Scheme’s membership… These changes would be effective from 01.06.2021.”

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