New Delhi: Trade unions at disinvestment-bound Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) have decided to withdraw the five-day strike, which was supposed to begin from Friday, Praveen Kumar P, General Secretary of INTUC-affiliated Cochin Refinery Employees' Association, told PSU Watch. The decision has been taken in view of the fact that the government has referred the dispute over the finalisation of Long-term Settlement (LTS) for workers at Mumbai and Kochi Refineries to the Industrial Tribunals at Mumbai and Ernakulum, respectively. The government has also given the tribunals 90 days to resolve the issue, said Kumar.
The Central government has asked the Central Government Industrial Tribunal (CGIT) to adjudicate whether the action of the BPCL management in in offering fitment benefits and DA merger at the rate of 12 percent and 95 percent as against 15 percent and 100 percent, respectively, as demanded by the Cochin Refineries Workers' Association and the Petroleum Workmen's Union in line with the benefits granted to other oil sector Central public sector undertakings, is "fair, reasonable and justifiable," said the order issued by the Labour Ministry.
The CGITs have also been asked to adjudicate whether the action of the BPCL management on insisting that the unions sign the memorandum of agreement (MoA) on long-term wage agreement "with conditions attached as under Sub Clause 'f' of Clause I which undermines the role and existence" of the unions, is "fair, just and reasonable." If not, what relief they are entitled to, the Labour Ministry has asked.
The 10-year wage agreement for refinery workers was due from August 1, 2018 but has been delayed. There are two clauses in the MoA on wage settlement drafted by the BPCL management which have not gone down well with the workers. Clause 1 (f) of the MoA on wages and other matters states: "The management reserves the right to review and revisit the MoA once every three years, with the first such review due w.e.f. 01.06.2022, and/or as per the terms set out in the Share Purchase Agreement (or any other documentation pursuant to which the privatisation of the Corporation is recorded) whichever, applies and wherever required amend/ modify/ alter the terms and conditions agreed to in this MoA based on profitability, capacity to pay, affordability, sustainability, least cost methodologies deployment, market determined compensation structures & any other factors that may arise. Management shall give 90 days' notice to the Union(s) signatory to this MoA before invoking this clause."
The workers' unions have claimed that the clause would grant "unilateral powers to the management" to make changes to the wage agreement from June 1, 2022, and is, hence, unacceptable to them. The other issue raised by the unions pertain to Dearness Allowance neutralization, fitment and pay scale.