With the privatisation of BPCL appearing inevitable, there are worries that the new promoter would soon move to lower wages.
Employees of Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) are concerned about the company’s long-term settlement proposals.
According to employee association leaders, the proposed long-term wage agreement has a three-yearly revision clause, which is a subject of contention.
“With the privatisation of BPCL appearing inevitable, there are worries that the new promoter (whoever it is) would soon move to lower wages.
"The long-term wage agreement proposed by the management calls for a three-yearly review of salaries.
"This is a deviation from the 10-yearly review in the earlier long-term wage agreements,” a representative from a BPCL employee union said.
Before the push for privatisation, employees were said to be opposed to the ten-yearly wage revisions, fearing stagnation of salaries.
But with a new promoter for BPCL in the offing, the employees have shifted to protecting the existing levels of wages.
Vedanta, Apollo Global, and I Squared Capital have responded to the Centre’s decision to shed its controlling stake in BPCL.
The public sector undertaking (PSU) commands around 15 per cent of India’s crude oil refining capacity and 22 per cent of the auto fuel marketing share.
This divestment drive is part of government’s efforts to bridge the fiscal deficit.
“Since the Centre is paying no heed to those opposing the privatisation, employees of BPCL are fighting to get a proper wage settlement, as was the case when Bharat Aluminium Company (BALCO) was privatised,” the representative said.
Vedanta Group’s Sterlite Industries had acquired 51 per cent stake in BALCO in March 2001.
This contentious divestment was conducted during the tenure of the first National Democratic Alliance government.
In an earlier representation, the All India Coordination Committee of BPCL Workers had said the wage agreement for employees in the Mumbai Refinery had expired on December 31, 2016.
The agreement with employees in the Kochi Refinery had expired on July 31, 2018.
The agreement with employees in the marketing division of the company had expired on May 31, 2018.
The employees’ associations have been pushing to get renewed wage pacts.
It’s not that BPCL employees are a monolith.
According to company officials in the know, “Nearly 95 per cent of the employees in the marketing division have no qualms about the proposed wage settlement and have signed on the dotted line.”
“This digression can be explained by the lesser number of years of service left for most employees in the marketing division.
"There are around 2,000 employees in the marketing division and a similar number in the refinery division,” the association representative said.
“Since there has been negligible new hiring in the marketing division over the past decade, most employees there just have three to six years of service left.
"The refinery division, on the other hand, has employees with much more years of service left and they feel threatened,” he said.
Photograph: ANI Photo