Oil sector employees to go ahead with strike despite court ban (Roundup)

January 6th, 2009 - 10:36 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 6 (IANS) Despite a stay order of the Delhi High Court on the oil sector strike, employees of the public sector petroleum companies remained firm Tuesday that they will go ahead with the strike from Wednesday.The Delhi High Court banned the strike Tuesday after gas major GAIL Ltd approached it, calling the strike “illegal”.

Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), the nation’s largest oil and gas producer, has also moved court for a similar ruling against strike to keep its operations running.

But despite the court order, the officers are not ready to heed the ministry’s appeal for calling off the action. “The strike is going ahead from tomorrow (Wednesday) starting at 0600 hours (6 a.m.),” OSOA president Amit Kumar told reporters here.

The OSOA, representing around 45,000 employees in 14 public sector oil firms, has called for the indefinite strike demanding higher wages.

Reacting to the strike threat, the petroleum ministry has asked the states to invoke the stringent Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) or the National Security Act (NSA) to tackle work stoppage.

“Several states are already in the process of invoking these Acts. I believe that Delhi and Assam have already invoked these,” Petroleum Secretary R.S. Pandey told reporters Monday.

Reacting to Pandey’s statement, Kumar said: “It was a sad day to know that technocrats who had given them blood and sweat to run the country’s economy will be persecuted.”

The association said in November 2008, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora and Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Santosh Mohan Deb had agreed to the legitimacy of their demand for enhanced pay package.

But, they waited in vain, said Kumar. The association gave the strike notice to the companies in December, following which the government set up a committee chaired by Home Minister P. Chidambaram Jan 3.

The committee said it would give its report on the pay revision packages for oil sector within 30 days.

But, the officers claimed that there was a “lack of trust” and doubted the sincerity of the government. “Since everything has already been decided, it requires only 15 minutes of attention from the government to approve our demands,” said Kumar.

The petroleum secretary said there had to be a “certain amount of faith” that the government will take action on the grievances of the public sector employees. “They should not inconvenience the consumers,” Pandey added.

The ministry estimates that only three of the 17 refineries being operated by the public sector will be affected by the strike. “There will be no impact on the aviation sector,” he said, adding that the territorial army had been asked to stand by for any support.

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