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OFB employee unions to meet Defence Production Secretary on ‘restructuring’

The unions which were boycotting the high-level committee constituted after a strike in August 2019 have agreed to meet Secretary (Defence Production) on July 28

The unions which were boycotting the high-level committee constituted after a strike in August 2019 have agreed to meet Secretary (Defence Production) on July 28.

New Delhi: It seems that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is trying to offer an olive branch to the employees’ unions of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The unions which were boycotting the high-level committee (HLOC) constituted after a strike in August 2019 have agreed to meet Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar on July 28. As per the meeting notice sent by the Defence Ministry, a discussion is likely to happen on the ‘restructuring’ of OFB. 

Here, the bone of contention between the MoD and employee unions is the usage of two words — corporatisation instead of restructuring. The three main unions of OFB — All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), Indian National Defence Workers Federation (INDWF) and Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) — have been on the edge because of the usage of the word ‘corporatisation’ instead of ‘restructuring.’ While restructuring would mean that there would be a rejig in the existing structure of the more than 200-year old organisation, corporatisation is the process of transforming state assets, government agencies, or municipal organisations into corporations. Corporatisation is not privatisation in the sense that it involves public ownership. However, it can also be a step towards the creation of hybrid forms of organisation, such as institutional public-private partnerships.

The recent government’s decision to go ahead with the ‘corporatisation’ of OFB, whose structure would be decided based on the recommendations given by an external consultant, has irked employee unions. 

Future action after MoD meeting: Employee union

Speaking to Defence Watch, R Srinivasan, General Secretary, INDWF, said, “We were boycotting HLOC because the terms of reference given to the HLOC was about the corporatisation of OFB not restructuring which was our concern. Since the latest meeting has ‘restructuring’ as the agenda, the three unions have decided to join the same.” 

Notably, the development has come just ahead of the scheduled meeting among the three unions on the further course of action against the government’s decision to corporatise OFB. The MoD has already floated an EoI-cum-RFP to appoint a consultant for the corporatisation of ordnance factories which is expected to be open in the first week of August. Unions have called for a meeting on July 28 — the same day MoD has also sent a meeting notice to the unions. Commenting on the future plan of action, Srinivasan said, “Our future course of action will be decided on the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting.” 

The Modi government has decided to corporatise OFB due to its lack of efficiency, Research and Development for decades now. Under its “Aatmnanirbhar Bharat’ programme, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has already announced the process in June.  

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