At a time when Kochi Refinery is set for a `20,000-crore expansion, the employees are on a protest mode seeking wage revision.
Resentment is brewing against the authorities of the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) which runs the refinery.
Employees with the non-management section of the refinery told ‘City Express’ that they will stage a two-day dharna in front of the refinery on January 7 and 8.
The dharna is aimed at inviting the attention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he arrives to inaugurate the expansion project.
According to the employees, though their wage contract had ended four years ago, it has not been renewed yet. “Our salary contract was made in 1998 for 10 years. We have not yet received a wage revision. The price of the all essential commodities has increased drastically. It is difficult to meet both ends with a salary which was fixed 14 years ago,” said Cochin Refineries Employees Association (CREA) general secretary P N Surendran.
The staff said that when they pressed for wage revision, they were asked to sign a draft that would terminate their basic rights.
“When we raised the demand, the authorities put forth certain conditions which were illegal and unjust. What we seek is a wage revision as per the norms of the Department of Public Enterprises functioning under the Ministry of Industries,” the employees said.
The employees are against the move of the authorities to raise working hours to 48. “Now, the work hours is 40 for the clerical staff and 44 for technical staff. With raising work hours, the management is eying to terminate employees. Now, we have 1,250 employees. By raising the work time, the authorities can cut nearly 200 employees from the company. The management is also trying to accommodate contract labourers for wagon loading and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) filling. The move may result in a security threat as unskilled contract workers will not be able to handle technical work,” an employee said.
The draft put forward by the employees also demand a drastic cut on benefits. “As per the new draft, we have to give up our performance and productivity allowance, festival advances, work man skill updation allowance, city compensatory allowance and family planing allowance to get a wage revision,” they said.
“There is also a transfer or termination threat. Employees will have to attend the work alone at the accident-prone areas like sub stations.At present, the employees go in pairs for risky assignments to ensure safety,” he said.
Meanwhile, the BPCL authorities said they have already decided to revise the wages. “The BPCL has already given a decent wage revision offer to the employees. Discussions are going on. The final decision will be taken after the discussions with trade unions, management authorities and Labour Commissioner,” said a BPCL official.
As for the working hours, the company official said all other oil companies followed the 48-hours working hour model.
“The company’s insistence on raising the working hours is genuine. The company has not plans to terminate employees or cut benefits,” the official added.