March 01, 2020

Two-Day Strike by BPCL Workers

Swadesh Dev Roye

A NATIONAL convention against privatisation of BPCL was held at the BPCL Kochi refinery premises on February 9, 2020 under the banner of all the three national federations, AIPWF, NFPW and PGWFI. Delegates from all over the country representing all the branches of oil and natural gas -  production, refining, pipeline and marketing representing ONGC, OIL, GAIL, IOCL, BPCL, HPCL, MRPL, Balmer Lawrie, Pawan Hans and more participated in the convention. 

Tapan Sen, general secretary-CITU inaugurated the convention. Chandrashekaran, president -INTUC, Kerala, Elamaram Kareem, general secretary-CITU Kerala, and leaders of all the three federations addressed the convention. Twenty three delegates from all the oil PSUs as well as all the locations represented in the convention participated on the deliberations over the draft ‘Kochi Declaration’ and the same was adopted unanimously. Swadesh Dev Roye, secretary CITU delivered the concluding speech.


In the evening a huge procession of around 4,000 participants consisting of Kochi refinery workers and their family members as well as workers from other PSUs of Kochi and the delegates from outside Kerala marched down the streets of Kochi covering a distance of around 10 km. The culminating mass open convention was addressed by Oommen Chandy, the former chief minister of Kerala. The delegates from outside Kerala were overwhelmed by the huge procession holding high the flags festoons and placards and sky renting slogan shouting.    


The declaration of the Kochi convention noted that apart from the move to privatise BPCL, Modi government is destroying the financial and operational strength of the other oil PSUs, both in upstream and downstream sector by making them heavily indebted on the one hand and putting them into severe operational and competitive disadvantage as a consequence of the brazenly pro-private sector policy of the government. Ultimate motive is to make them financially and operationally weak to facilitate their privatisation for a song to the advantage of the private sector oil tycoons, both foreign and domestic.

Discovered potential oil/gas fields with ONGC are being taken away and handed over to private players for exploration. Under the liberalised OALP (Open Acreage Licensing Policy) in the first four rounds, private sector has captured majority fields; Vedanta – 51, OIL – 21 and ONGC – 17. Moreover, ONGC has been pushed into a heavily indebted oil giant by forcing it to buy out HPCL and also the burden of sick oil and petroleum company of Gujarat government.  In the meantime foreign oil companies are entering deeper into the production and refining sector in India.  Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi Adnoc are almost certain to have 50 per cent equity holding in the 60 million tonnes per annum capacity proposed integrated refinery and petrochemicals at Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

The convention noted that all the segments of energy sector are facing challenges of different dimensions from the destructive policies of the government. It is interesting to note  that the CPSUs which are currently under the hammer of privatisation, pertains inter alia, to the sectors (oil & petroleum, coal, power and shipping & container business) already under the business domain of two monstrous crony capitalists of Modi government - Ambani and Adani.

The ongoing economic crisis has pushed the public sector energy industries also into the grip of the crisis.  Amongst the list of eight core sectors which have suffered serious slide in growth, the worst record of the sector in last 14 years, five are from energy sector – coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products and electricity. The situation is full of challenges and also providing opportunities for integrated united resistance struggles of entire energy sector workers. 

The Kochi convention has unanimously decided to go for two-day nationwide united strike in all the units of BPCL on  April 20-21, 2020. Notice to be served latest by April 4th. Further, one day mass-casual leave by the employees of all other oil and petroleum establishments on April 20, in solidarity with striking BPCL employees and massive joint solidarity demonstration on April 21st. 

The Kochi convention has also adopted an in principle decision to undertake a long march from Kochi Refinery Gate to Rajbhavan, Trivandrum. The date and other details will be finalised shortly.

Towards preparation for the strike and mass casual leave action, elaborate programmes of campaign, propaganda and agitation were drawn in the convention. Some such programmes are: joint conventions of oil and petroleum workers in all oil and petroleum centres, particularly in Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore and Delhi (NCR). From  April 15  to 20, ‘relay group darna’ from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm in BPCL at refinery gate, CO and& RHQs, bottling plants, depots and other possible locations all over the country.