On November 28, 2019, tens of thousands of workers of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) took part in an All India General Strike to protest against privatisation of BPCL and HPCL. Workers in all the refineries, as well as marketing and pipeline workers participated in the strike.
The strike call in BPCL was given by the joint forum of four BPCL Employees Unions — Bharat Petroleum Corporation Refinery Employees’ Union (BPCREU), Bharat Petroleum Technical and Non Technical Employees Association (BPTNTEA), Process Technicians Association (PTA) and Petroleum Workers Union (PWU). They were also joined by the Association representing Marketing workers.
In Mumbai, thousands of workers took out a 10 km Long March from the refinery located at Mahul to Chembur Station from 8 a.m. in the morning to 12 noon. This also included a large contingent of women workers. They shouted slogans all along the route denouncing the Central Government’s announcement of selling off the 53.3% shares of BPCL held by it on 20th of November 2019, and handing over management control to a private company. They distributed pamphlets to the people along the route explaining how privatisation was anti-people and anti-national. Activists of Kamgar Ekta Committee distributed leaflets to people explaining how privatisation of BPCL as well as all essential services such as health, education, railways, and other public sector enterprises is anti-national and anti-worker.
The march culminated in a massive rally near Chembur station. Petroleum workers shouted militant slogans expressing their determination to defeat the privatisation move of the Central government. The massive rally of petroleum workers was addressed by leaders of the trade union and workers movement.
The rally began with the address of Comrade A Matthew of the Kamgar Ekta Committee. Comrade Matthew saluted the workers of BPCL refinery for militantly and unitedly opposing the privatisation of BPCL as well as for taking out this long march to mobilise the support of the working people of Mumbai.
Com Utagi, Joint Convenor of Trade Unions Joint Action Committee- Maharashtra (TUJAC), said that it is very likely that Saudi Aramco, a petroleum monopoly from Saudi Arabia will buy BPCL. He warned that behind Saudi Arabia stands the US imperialists and the sell out of BPCL would mean that India’s oil refining would come under the control of the US imperialists.
Comrade Milind Ranade of AITUC saluted the refinery workers and told the masses of people who were looking on that the struggle of the refinery workers was the struggle of the ordinary people, the daily wage earners, the small shopkeepers, hawkers, rickshaw and taxi drivers etc, since the rising price of petrol with privatisation would affect everybody.
Retired Justice Kolse Patil asked the refinery workers to take the struggle ahead and not fear the police or jail.
The meeting ended with a rousing call by the workers that they will unitedly oppose the privatisation of BPCL with more such strikes and joint actions.