Nearly 85,000 employees of the 41 ordnance factories will once again stage a strike after the high-level committee, set up by the government, has failed to convince the employees union of Ordnance Factory Board of the need for corporatisation. In August, civilian employees of OFB decided to withdraw their strike against the government move to corporatise the factories after assurance by the ministry that their concerns will be taken into account by the high-level committee.
Speaking to the WEEK, C. Srikumar, general secretary, All India Defence Employees Federation, said they have been told that the OFB employee union will not be party to the corporatisation process. "The terms and references have been made in such a way that the government has already decided for its corporatisation. We have given a protest note to the defence minister saying these terms and references are not acceptable to us," Srikumar said.
Upset over high-level panel's outcome, OFB employees will be going for a strike on January 8, 2020.
"Today we have taken strike ballots from all over the country, which in all probability will be in favour of strike. On December 13, we will be issuing the strike notice to the government. And we will go on strike on January 8, 2020. Strike will not only concentrate on OFB corporatisation, but also against some labour law amendments introduced by the government in the Parliament," Srikumar added.
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Forty-one Indian Ordnance Factories across the country are involved in manufacturing arms, weapons, ammunition, tanks, battle field dress, among others for the armed forces. OFB is 218-year-old and is functioning under the Department of Defence Production with its headquarters based in Kolkata.
The Union government is considering a move to convert these ordnance factories and their associated organisations into corporates to boost competition and self-reliant in arms and ammunition production.
On the other side, the government believes that efforts have been made in recent times to expand the export market. "Ordnance factories were set up as 'captive centres' to serve the needs of the armed forces, but they have been facing the performance issues for a long time," said a defence ministry official, while adding that concerns have been raised in various quarters over the last few decades regarding the functioning of the OFB which “lacks professional attitude as is required from a production organisation”.
While pointing out the monopoly in supply, the ministry official said the OFB has, all along, supplied products to the armed forces on nomination basis, which has not really given incentive to the board to improve its quality of products and does not have a dynamic system of getting customer’s feedback on quality and timely delivery issues.