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OFB unions call for ‘indefinite strike'

Unions representing nearly 80,000 workers at the India's Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) have called an “indefinite strike” in response to the government's recent decision to split the state-run organisation's 41 factories into seven corporate entities.

A letter published by the unions said they “strongly feel that the entire process to corporatise the OFB is stage-managed, hasty, and taken in a hurried manner, without any application of mind about the impact of this decision on the defence preparedness of our country and also about the future and service conditions of 76,000 employees”.

The unions added that their decision to hold an “indefinite strike is thrust upon us by the government due to its unilateral and unsavoury decision”. The unions expect to outline the conditions and period of the strike before the end of the month.

On 16 June, the Indian government said it had approved a proposal to restructure the OFB into seven companies, each with an emphasis on a specific defence industrial capability. The new corporate entities will focus on ammunition and explosives; vehicles; weapons and equipment; troop comfort items (including uniforms and other apparel); opto-electronics; parachutes; and ancillary products.

The OFB corporatisation plan had been considered for nearly two decades but was finally agreed to by the government last year, with a group of ministers tasked to propose its new structure. The government said the aim of the restructure is to improve the OFB's “autonomy, accountability, and efficiency”.

The OFB currently does not operate on a conventional corporate basis. The enterprise secures contracts through nomination from the government and it supplies goods to the Indian armed forces through a cost-base mechanism. It does not seek to make profit above the cost of production.

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