To offset plans of major strike by several federations of Ordinance Factory Board (OFB), the Union Government on June 30, 2021 brought an ordinance prohibiting any agitation and strike by anyone engaged in the essential defence services.
The Essential Defence Services Ordinance 2021 came in the backdrop of the announcement by major federations of the OFB to go on indefinite strike from the later part of the month in protest against the government’s decision to make OFB a corporate body.
The essential service workers are not be allowed to strike, since that form of collective bargaining is likely to inflict rage and aggression and substantially harm on the society. Strikes lead to unrest in the society causing disturbance to public and civil peace. Collective bargaining or negotiation will be rendered meaningless because actions like protest or strikes are complementary to these processes. Any dispute between managerial practice, labor welfare and rights would be virtually disempowered and cannot be challenged.
ESSENTIAL DEFENCE SERVICES
Essential defence services refer to establishments engaged in production of goods or equipment required for any purpose connected with defence.
A gazette notification said employees involved in the production of defence equipment, services and operation or maintenance of any industrial establishment connected with the military as well as those employed in repair and maintenance of defence products will come under the preview of the Ordinance.
WHAT DOES THE BILL SAY?
The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 say it is meant to provide for the maintenance of essential defence services so as to secure the security of the nation and the life and property of the public at large and for matters connected to it.
It will empower the government to prohibit strike, agitation of workers employed in such establishments, the government thus can decide to mark essential defence services and prevent lockouts of such establishment.
The federation had called for an indefinite strike in July against the government’s decision to corporate them. It may issue such an order, if required, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of the nation.
- Persons participating in illegal strikes shall be imprisoned up to one year imprisonment or fine of Rs. 10,000/- or both.
- Employers participating in illegal lock-outs or lay-offs shall be punished with imprisonment of one year or fine of Rs. 10,000/- or both.
- All offences shall be cognizable and non-bailable.
- It said anyone instigating or inciting others to take part in a strike declared illegal under the Ordnance shall also be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to two years besides the prescribed fines.
PUBLIC UTILITY SERVICES
The new bill amends the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 which will include essential defence services under Public Utility Services.
The undertaking which supplies the basic necessity services such as electricity, water, gas, power, transport etc. comes under Public Utility Services.
The government had approved a long-pending proposal to reconstruct the nearly 200-year-old Ordinance Factory Board that operates military ammunition and military equipment production facilities into states owned corporate entities to improve its accountability, efficiency and competitiveness.
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