Unions at BPCL refineries hold day-long hunger strike against privatisation, VRS

  • The trade unions have claimed that the LTS revision has been pending for long and there is no clarity about whether the employees will get a fair settlement under VRS or not

  • Since the trade unions have threatened to go on two-day flash strike if their demands are not met, the BPCL management in Kochi Refinery has approached the Deputy CLC in the matter

New Delhi: Employees and workers’ unions at the state-run BPCL’s (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd) refineries in Mumbai and Kochi held a day-long hunger strike on Thursday to register opposition against the VRS scheme offered by the management and demand LTS (Long Term Settlement) revision. Along with CITU’s Cochin Refinery Workers’ Association, Cochin Refinery Employees Association and a bunch of other unions, RSS-affiliated BMS (Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh), also took part in the dharna.

Since the trade unions and associations have threatened to go on two-day flash strike if their demands are not met, the BPCL management in Kochi Refinery has approached the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), Cochin, in the matter. An official communication from the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner’s office accessed by PSU Watch showed that 
Deputy CLC has urged the BPCL management of Kochi Refinery and the trade unions to hold a conciliation meeting on August 4.

Conciliation meeting a ploy to stop unions from going on flash strike: Union leader

“The management of M/s BPCL Kochi Refinery vide their letter dated July 30 has intimated the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), Cochin, that they have received a communication from the various trade unions representing the regular employees of Kochi Refinery that the trade unions are likely to go on 2-day flash strike in connection with the pending demands for wage negotiation for new LTS and other issues. Accordingly, all are hereby informed that I shall be holding the conciliation proceedings in the above mentioned dispute by way of video conferencing on 04.08.2020 with a view to bring about an amicable settlement of the dispute and all are advised to attend the same without fail,” the official communication said.

Dismissing the conciliation proceedings as a ploy, Aji MG, General Secretary of Cochin Refinery Workers’ Association, said, “What is the need for bringing in the Deputy CLC even before the unions have served a notice for a flash strike? Under the Industrial Disputes Act, if a case is pending with the Deputy CLC, no union can go on strike. That is the reason the conciliation proceedings are happening.”

Why are employees on strike?

Apart from demanding the Centre to stop the privatisation process, the other major demand raised by the unions pertains to the VRS. The trade unions have claimed that the LTS revision has been pending for long and there is no clarity about whether the employees will get a fair settlement under VRS or not. While LTS revision has been pending for 42 months for employees of Mumbai Refinery, at Kochi Refinery, it has been two years since the LTS expired. 

In the backdrop of privatisation, the VRS scheme that has been offered by the BPCL management is being viewed by trade unions as an attempt to get rid of employees before handing the organisation to a ‘corporate boss.’ “The VRS scheme must have come up on the basis of requests from bidders. It is a way to rid the organisation of employees so that the organisation goes to a new owner with a small percentage of original employees,” said MG. 

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