23-25th January witnessed country-wide strike by about four lakh defence civilian workers. Fotry-one ordnance factories, 52 DRDO labs, MES, COD, Army base workshops, and various departments of the army, navy and air force were all shut down during the 3-day strike. During this period all defence production facilities were completely shut. The employees unions and labour leaders have given a call for decisive struggle.
It is worth mentioning that in Jabalpur alone, the Ordnance factory, Khamaria , Gun Carriage factory, Vehicles factory, Grey Iron foundry, Central Ordnance Depot, 506 Army Base workshops and nearly 15000 employees of MES downed their tools.
Along with 20.000 defence civil employees, 40,000 employees in Maharashtra took part in the strike. The Ordnance factory in Ambarnath, Central Defense depot in Kandivili, Naval Dockyard, MES, etc. all remained closed.
The impact of this strike was that the production of vehicles, artillery, artillery shells, bombs and explosives, all stopped in their respective units.
The call for this all India strike was given by all three main federations, namely, All India Defence Employees Federation, Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh and Indian National Defence workers Federation. CITU supported the strike.
The largest employees organisation in the country, All India Railwaymen's Federation also supported the strike by these defence employees.
The striking workers associations pointed out that the Central government is neglecting the defence establishment which is strategic, in order to facilitate the entry of private companies with 100 percent FDI under the banner of Make in India. Under this initiative, 275 defence products made in 41 ordanance factories have been declared "non-core" and are being offered to private sector companies. Because of this 25,000 defence production workers and hundreds of small scale industries have been adversely affected or have already been closed down. Through this step, the security of the country is being put in danger.
Government has handed over MES, Station workshops, Army base workershop, etc to be run on contract. Nearly 30,000 employees have been rendered surplus and are being forced to relocate.
The nearly 70 % army, navy and air force uniformed employees have been taken out of the purview of the National Pension System, while 30 % of civil defense personnel of the same Defence Ministry have been made to forcibly join the New Pension Scheme. Unions are demanding to go back to the old pension scheme.
During this period, many demonstrations and dharnas have been held in many place across the country and processions have been brought out. In many places gate meetings were organised.
Defence sector workers in Trichy, Tamilnadu protest against privatisation
2,000 workers - 1,500 from Ordnance Factory Trichy (OFT) and 500 from Heavy Alloy Penetrator Project (HAPP) - staged a three-day protest from January 23. They accused the Central government of dismantling the state-owned defence industries by shutting down many army workshops and privatizing defence production.
According to general secretary of the All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF), C. Srikumar, the defence ministry has approved a proposal to withdraw 275 products being manufactured in the ordnance factories by classifying them as non-core products. The AIDEF has claimed that the Central government has taken a policy decision to hand over defence production, till now mainly carried out in the ordnance factories, to the private sector,
The AIDEF has also opposed the systematic and deliberate plan of the defence ministry for weakening the defence public sector units (DPSUs). Defence production is increasingly being handed over to the capitalist monopolies, in the name of building an “indigenous defence production ecosystem through defence industrial corridors” in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The federation has opposed the fact that the Central government has been proceeding with the defence corridor while depriving the state-owned defence industries like ordnance factories of their work.