In a setback to the petroleum workers in Chennai, Madras High Court on Monday, November 25, passed an interim order which proscribes the November 28 strike called by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) employees. The two unions, namely, Petroleum Employees Union and Petroleum Workers Union won’t be participating in the nationwide strike, sources have told NewsClick.
The Madras HC was hearing a petition filed by the BPCL management which was represented by its General Manager (HRS) M.V. Shenoy. In addition to the granting of interim injunction, the court also directed the police to provide security to the premises of the public sector company in the state, PTI reported.
Taking its disinvestment plan further, the Modi Government on November 20 lined up the sale of five more public sector enterprises, even those that have been recording profits such as BPCL. The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA), which met under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the divestment of the Centre’s entire 53.29% stake in the ‘maharatna’ company.
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To mark their protest against the privatisation project, petroleum workers coming from different arms of the oil industry—production, refining, pipeline and marketing—have called for a one-day pan-India ‘token strike’ on November 28.
“It is a nationwide protest of the petroleum workers and the strike will be observed at other locations if not in Tamil Nadu,” said Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) secretary Swadesh Dev Roye.
The petitioner informed the court that with the Centre considering disinvestment, such developments appear to be based on macro-economic plans of the Government of India. Since the terms and conditions of employment are not affected, there is no cause for the trade unions to be concerned.
“The employees can’t wait for the privatisation to happen and then take action. It has also come to my knowledge that it was sought by the petitioner to declare the strike illegal saying that employees’ unions of a declared ‘public utility service’ must serve at least a six-week notice to the management,” Dev Roye said, adding that this is a misinterpretation of the Section 22 of Industrial Disputes Act.
As per the Section 22, “no person employed in a public utility service shall go on strike in breach of contract – without giving to the employer notice of strike, as herein – after provided, within six weeks before striking; or within 14 days of giving such notice”.
“This means that as per the law, a strike notice must be submitted 14 days prior to the strike and the action must be observed latest by the end of the sixth week after serving the strike notice,” he added. It should be noted that the strike notice by a total of 21 employees’ unions across the country was submitted on November 11.
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In addition to the two Chennai-based employees’ fronts, another union in Assam’s Numaligarh, namely, Numaligarh Refinery Employees Union will also not be taking part in the strike.
The government on November 20 informed that the stake sale of BPCL will not change the ownership status of the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. “Though not participating in the strike, the employees at Numaligarh will be extending their support to the anti-privatisation protest of the petroleum workers,” Dev Roye added.