After the merger of 41 ordnance factories into seven corporations, the Modi government had claimed that the rights of over 70,000 employees working at different factories will be protected.
However, as per the employees, the government has not only systematically undermined their rights but has increased their working hours, starved OFB-linked hospitals of funds and stopped paying for their overtime.
They have flagged the following issues:
· Working hours have been increased from 44 hours in a week to 48 hours in ordnance factories after the corporatization
· Overtime wages are not being paid, in complete contravention to the service rules set up by the Ministry of Defence
· Hospitals associated with the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) don’t have funds even for the purchase of basic medicines
· Employees are struggling to withdraw their GPF as LAO under the Director of Ordnance (DoA) – instituted after the merger to run the new corporations – is not cooperating
· Appointment on compassionate grounds has been stopped after the corporatization
On October 18, the workers’ unions, in a joint letter sent to the Defence Secretary and Chief Labour Commissioner of India, highlighted the “contravention” of commitments made to them by the Ministry of Defence before the merger.
The unions alleged that the Defence Ministry had promised that “pay scales, allowances, leave, medical facilities, career progression and other service condition will also be governed by the extant rules, regulation and orders as are applicable to the Central Government Employees”, but these were being breached.
Citing problems being faced by the employees, a union leader told NH that HAV Avadi hospital in Chennai, for example, was allotted only Rs 5 lakh whereas it cumulative expenditure worked out to Rs 14.44 crore just for the month of October.
“The HAV Avadi hospital alone needs Rs 66 lakh. Where will the employees go for treatment which was provided at much cheaper rates in the government-run hospital?” he said.
Asserting that the seven new corporations cannot take arbitrary decisions concerning service matters, C Srikumar, general secretary, AIDEF said, “Altering service conditions will have far-reaching impact, therefore, we urge the government to give necessary instructions to desist from such activities”.
Raising the issue with the Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh, CPI MP Binoy Viswoam said, “Despite widespread opposition to the corporatization of Ordnance Factory Board, the government decided to push ahead with its plan. At the time, certain guarantees were made to the workers…Unfortunately in the first two weeks of this move, the new management has arbitrarily and unilaterally decided to alter the service condition of employees…”
“As the Department of Defence Production embarks on this new phase, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the rights and interests of the employees are protected,” added the CPI leader in his letter to Rajnath Singh that he wrote on October 19.
DMK MPs are also expected to raise the issue with the government, sources said.
Established in 1775 by the British govt, the 246-year-old OFB – the third-largest defence manufacturer in the world and the second-largest in Asia – was dissolved by the Centre with effect from October 1, 2021.
OFB employees believe that corporatization will pave the way for the privatization of defence sector in the long term. The Modi government has, on many occasions, hinted at such a plan.