New Delhi: India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) today said it has begun talks with workers unions of ordnance factories to address their concerns over corporatisation plans announced by the government last year.
A high-level officials committee of the Department of Defence Production has taken the initiative to have a dialogue with the representatives of employees’ unions and federations regarding the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) corporatisation, a government statement said.
The committee, headed by Additional Secretary V. L. Kantha Rao and including senior MoD and Indian Army officers, held a host of meetings through video conferencing with three such associations — Confederation of Defence Recognised Associations (CDRA), Indian Ordnance Factories Gazetted Officers Association (IOFGOA) and National Defence Group-B Gazetted Officers Association (NDGBGOA).
At these meetings, the government’s intent to implement the decision to convert OFB into one or more 100-percent government-owned corporate entities, with involvement of all the stakeholders, was conveyed to the representatives of the unions.
Suggestions were invited from the association members on ways to safeguard the benefits and interests of employees in terms of wages, salary, retirement benefits, health facilities and other service matters, while converting OFB into government-owned corporate entity or entities.
Proposals were also sought on their concern regarding future orders and budgetary support needed from the government for the new corporate entity or entities.
“The discussions in the meeting took place in a cordial atmosphere. The request of the associations to hold more meetings with all OFB employees’ federations and unions participating together was considered by the committee and it was assured that the engagement with the federations and unions will be continued.”
As part of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat‘ (Self-Reliant India) package, the government had announced on May 16 that it would improve autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies by corporatisation of the OFB.
Employees’ associations were represented by CDRA president B. K. Singh and general secretary B. B. Mohanty. The IOFSGOA was represented by its general secretary S. B. Chaubey and general treasurer M. A. Siddiqui, while the NGDBGOA was represented by its president M. Barik and general secretary Jaigopal Singh.
In August last, the workers’ unions had gone on a 30-day protest by stopping work at India’s 41 ordnance factories against the government’s corporatisation plans. This forced the government to clarify that the move was not privatisation of the state-owned entities, but only providing a corporate structure for administration. The government also had to assure that the 164,000 workers’ interests would be protected when the OFB corporatisation happened.
India’s ordnance factories meet a majority of Indian armed forces’ need for armoured vehicles, combat vehicles, military transport vehicles, weapons, armament, artillery guns, and light standard weapons. During the Financial Year 2019, the OFB supplied equipment and weapons worth nearly Rs 11,000 crore ($1.5 billion).