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Indefinite strike threat by IOC employees

New Delhi, Oct. 15: The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officers’ association and workers’ unions today upped the ante on the divestment issue and threatened to go on an indefinite strike if the government went ahead with the privatisation of the Fortune 500 company.

This is the first time that both the officers’ association and the workers’ union have formed a joint forum to take up an issue.

E. Haque, president of the officers’ association, said the “agitational path” would be adopted in a phased manner. “We have met the petroleum minister and submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister against the misguided move to privatise India’s largest downstream company. If they do not consider our demand we will have no choice but to go on an indefinite strike,” he added.

He said private companies such as Reliance and Shell had already been given licences to start their own retailing business two years ago but there had been no action on the ground.

Clearly these companies are eyeing the priceless assets of the public sector oil companies with a view to “capturing them” for their own gain. It would be very unfair of the government to enable them to achieve this goal.

Haque said there was no economic logic in the move as IOC contributed as much as 14 per cent of the total tax collections of the country every year and no private company could match this. So, if the objective is to raise more finances for the government, privatisation of a company that has made a net profit of 6,115 crore will not serve this purpose.

He pointed out that the company, which started with an investment of Rs 82 crore, has already created assets of more than Rs 100,0000 crore and paid a cumulative dividend of around Rs 6,000 crore. He said the IOC chairman had already stated that splitting the retail business would lead to the liquidation of the company.

The petroleum ministry is also opposed to the selloff and yet the government appears to be considering the move which is not in national interest.

He said it was indeed surprising that the government decided to reverse its earlier decision of not privatising IOC which was considered essential from the strategic viewpoint.

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