The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021, passed in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday does not come into effect unless it is invoked and is in place for only one year, a defence official said.
The Bill was promulgated to prevent the employee unions of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) from going on strike against the corporatisation plan that was announced.
“There is a sunset clause introduced in Clause 1 as an amendment. It is applicable only for one year, after which it will lapse,” the official said. “It does not come into effect by default. Employees have the right to peaceful protest.”
The Bill also did not violate the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention. It was meant to ensure uninterrupted supply to the Services, which was “especially essential in the current situation”, the official stated.
On June 16, the Cabinet approved the plan to convert 41 factories into seven government-owned corporate entities for better management and improved efficiency. Following this, the federations had written a letter to the Defence Minister and Secretary Defence Production condemning the move. At a joint meeting later, they announced a plan to go on an indefinite strike.
The government then promulgated the Essential Defence Services Ordinance (EDSO)-2021, which bans all strikes by defence-civilian employees. This was condemned by five OFB unions, which called it “draconian”.
The corporatisation into Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) would allow them autonomy as well as help improve accountability and efficiency, another official said.
This restructuring was aimed at transforming the ordnance factories into productive and profitable assets, deepening specialisation in the product range, enhancing competitiveness and improving quality and cost-efficiency, the official added.