Five federations of employees of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) issued a resolution condemning the government’s promulgation of the “draconian” Essential Defence Services Ordinance (EDSO) 2021, which bans civilian defence employees from going on strike, and urged its withdrawal. The Ordinance came ahead of the planned indefinite strike by employees of the OFB against the decision to convert its 41 factories into seven government-owned corporate entities.
A joint resolution issued by the five federations after a virtual meeting on July 1 stated: “The draconian steps taken by the Government to suppress and crush the democratic rights of the defence civilian employees is retrograde, undemocratic, anti worker and is totally unacceptable to the trade unions and the entire workforce of the defence industry.” The joint meeting also unanimously resolved to observe July 8 as an “All India Black Day”.
The resolution was sent to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Secretary, Defence Production, Raj Kumar and appealed for “withdrawing the EDSO and start immediate negotiations” with them on the corporatisation of the OFB.
The joint meeting of the five federations condemned provisions such as the dismissal of employees without holding an inquiry; to arrest employees who call the strike and participate in the strike; and to punish employees with imprisonment up to two years. “Fearing these draconian provisions the 76,000 employees will not surrender their demand to withdraw the Government decision of corporatisation and also to maintain the status of the employees as Central Government employees/ defence civilian employees...,” their resolution said.
On June 16, the Union Cabinet approved a corporatisation plan for the OFB for “better management” and “to improve efficiency”. Following this, the federations had written a letter to the Defence Minister and the Secretary, Defence Production, condemning the move, and at a joint meeting on June 27, the federations had decided to go on an indefinite strike from July 26.
Stating that the “draconian” Ordinance had “hurt the feelings” of the defence civilian employees since they had not resorted to any strike when the country was in need, the statement said that instead they had “worked day and night without even going to their home for weeks together” to fully equip the Armed Forces in all the wars the country has faced after Independence.
“Even in 2019 when the Government took the arbitrary decision to corporatise the Ordnance Factories, in the midst of one month strike, the federations after considering the tense situation in the China border has withdrawn the strike after five days,” the resolution pointed out.
The joint meeting urged the government to “withdraw the draconian and colonial EDSO” and that, instead of “threatening and crushing its own employees”, the government should come forward to start immediate negotiations with the federations.