Workers of Ordnance factories begin 1-month strike to protest government's 'corporatisation' plans

Kolkata: Civilian employees of the Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) began a one-month strike on Tuesday at its defence manufacturing units across the country, demanding immediate withdrawal of the government's 'corporatisation' plans.

The strike, called by three workers' federations, claimed that 'corporatisation' of the Kolkata-headquartered organisation will eventually lead to its privatisation. OFB chairman Saurabh Kumar, however, reasoned that the proposed move by the Centre is aimed at providing greater flexibility in day-to-day functioning and increasing autonomy in decision-making.

"This will enable the ordnance factories to respond faster to the futuristic needs of the Armed Forces and provide an impetus to the export potential of its products," Kumar, who is also the director general of Ordnance Factories, said. The Ministry of Defence had earlier clarified that it had no plan to privatise the ordnance factories. A joint press statement issued by the three recognized employees' federations claimed that talks with the ministry to resolve the matter have failed to reach a solution.

"The strike commenced at 6 am on Tuesday. It is set to continue for one month, till September 20, if a solution is not reached before that. The federations urge the Centre to reconsider its decision to corporatise the ordnance factories and withdraw the same in the interest of the defence preparedness of our country and also the service life of 82,000 employees," the statement said.

Several committees, over the past two decades, have recommended the conversion of ordnance factories into a public sector company, it claimed. "But the ordnance factories being war reserve and solely dependent on the armed forces cannot function as a commercially viable PSU," the statement added. A committee of senior officials of the defence ministry, led by additional secretary of the Department of Defence Production, along with the OFB chairman, had met the office-bearers of the federations on August 14 and August 16 to discuss the matter.

"The committee explained to the employee organisations that there is no proposal to privatise OFB. The Centre is considering a proposal to make it a Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), which is 100 per cent government-owned," the ministry had said in its statement.

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