3 Jan : Calling a ministerial group formed to look into their wage demands an eyewash, PSU oil firm executives on Saturday said they will go on indefinite strike from 7th January as the government has failed to live up to its promises of giving officers a fair deal.
The Oil Sector Officers’ Association (OSOA), an amalgamation of officers’ unions of 14 PSU oil firms, said the November wage hike approved by the government work out to only 17 percent.
"It’s do-or-die this time. Officers feel betrayed by the numerous unkept promises made by ministers," OSOA President Amit Kumar told reporters in New Delhi.
He said a grouping of Home Minister P Chidambaram, Oil Minister Murli Deora, HI Minister Santosh Mohan Dev and Minister of State for Finance P K Bansal charged with looking into their demands, was not even a Group of Ministers (GoM).
"This so-called panel (announced yesterday evening) has not been officially notified. There is no terms of reference or a time frame for addressing our issues," Kumar said.
A strike in oil PSUs can cripple the already strained economy beginning with disruption in fuel supplies to airlines and slowly impacting auto fuel and cooking fuel supplies.
"On November 17, 2008, Dev more than agreed with our demands and promised to get us a fair deal. He stated that the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram had agreed for a five -year periodicity of wage revision. But three days later we got peanuts and we will have to live with these for the next 10-years," he said, adding Deora had made similar promises.
OSOA wants 50 per cent dearness allowance (DA) merged with basic pay with effect from 1st January 2005, in line with the one approved for the central government employees in January 2006.
Officers stopping work at refineries and oil fields may cripple fuel supplies and do irreparable damage to oilwells as some of the old ones may never be able to start production again.
OSOA said the wage hike approved by the government last month worked out to Rs 3,989 per month at the entry level and Rs 2,217 at the highest level.
Kumar said executives may have to return part of the interim ad-hoc payment of Rs 5000 to Rs 9,800 per month they received in mid-2008 pending wage hike approval. "This is because the hike approved is so minuscule."
The government has hoodwinked the public by saying the hike was up to 200 per cent but in effect the increase was only 17 per cent, according to the association.
The OSOA said it had earlier submitted a 13-point charter of demands that included categorising all oil sector PSUs in the A+ category, the highest, thereby entitling workers to the best remuneration available for a government-sector company.
It is also seeking introducing open-ended pay scales, removing the ceiling of 50 per cent of basic pay on perks and allowances, a wage revision every five years, and maintaining the same annual and promotion increment levels of four and six per cent, already in vogue.
"The OSOA’s meetings on November 12 and 15 with the Department of Public Enterprises and Petroleum Ministry have not yielded favourable results," Amit Kumar said.
The proposed strike, the OSOA said, would result in a Rs 183 crore per day revenue loss for ONGC on account of crude oil production, and sale of gas and value-added products. For all upstream companies put together, the revenue loss would add up to Rs 225 crore per day.
Indian Oil Corp, the country’s largest fuel retailer, would lose Rs 600 crore per day in revenue and all retailers put together would lose over Rs 900 crore per day.
The loss on excise duty to the government is expected to be over Rs 100 crore a day, it said.