Skip to main content

Can striking unions hold public to ransom?

Today, 9 January 2009 Friday is the third day of the strike organised by Oil Sector Officer's Association (OSOA). This strike is taking place across India as a result of which oil is not supplied to petrol pumps and the latter have dried up. There is no petrol and compressed natural gas (CNG) and therefore public transport is hit the hardest. Reports indicate that around 95 per cent of the petrol pumps across the country are running dry. In Bombay, as per my observation and estimate, almost 80 per cent of the taxis are already off the roads (at around noon) and B.E.S.T. buses are running jam-packed even after the morning peak hours. I am sure local trains must also be jam-packed. Today I had to go to Duncun Road (Gol deval temple area) for some work. 

I was quite hassled on my way back since I didn't find a single taxi who was willing to take mom home. While most of the taxis were off the road, the remaining few weren't stopping. The handful remaining few were seen refusing to take passengers. I don't know why but I could only guess that perhaps due to the scarcity of CNG, they may not want to venture out too far from their residences lest they run out of fuel in some far-flung area and have to walk back home, leaving the taxi deserted in that area!

Who and why? 
Reports say that around 45,000 officers across 12 state-owned oil corporations have joined the strike, demanding hither wages. Sources say that these public sector executives (PSU) executives get a hike in once every 10 years. Their last such hike was supposed to be in 2007, but the staff wanted a bigger hike -they claim the government had promised them - than the one the government decided to give them. But not all officers across all PSUs have gone on strike. Typically, the hierarchy of a PSU oil executive, as per my sources, is as follows (the red-coloured highlighted designations have gone on strike):

Chairman
Director
Executive Director
General Manager
Deputy Manager
Grade A Chief Manager
Senior Manager
Manager
Deputy Manager
Assistant Manager
Officer - grade I
Officer - grade II

Is the strike justified?
I am told that since these PSU executives get a hike every once in 10 years, as against their private sector counterparts, they are justified in asking for their pound of flesh. Probably, feeling cornered or atleast that's what they claim to feel, they have resorted to possibly the biggest weapon in their arsenal: strike. The strike has paralysed the entire country with choking oil supplies across sectors like power generation, cooking gas supplies, airline fuel, petrol, diesel and CNG for vehicles and public transport, alike. 

But clearly, I do not know who is right and who is wrong in this particular tussle, because I do not know how much they get and whether their demands are justified. What I do know, is that strikes should not be allowed. Such strikes should be banned and people/officers/workers who go on such strike should be put in their places by authorities. I am a Bombaiyite and I have suffered several times in my life due to these strikes, as all other Bombaiyites have too. Motormen going on strike and throwing train schedules out of gear, BEST staff going on strike and buses going off the roads and now oil company officers going on strike paralysing public transport and supply of piped gas supplied to our homes. But on the other hand, knowing our Indian masters and how miserly they can be - I am not saying the Indian government is, in this particular case they are the bosses - but I mean in general and across industries - must also wake up and realise that people who work for them deserve to be paid their dues. I should know! In the presence of a weak judiciary, it's not hard to see why employees resort to such cheap tactics like strike. Nevertheless, all things being said, a strike that cripples normal life is a nuisance and it needs to be nipped in the bud. It must be stopped. Enough is enough! 

Freeing oil prices and companies?
The current crisis could be averted if the oil sector and companies are allowed to be privatised. Also, oil pricing policy should be changed and be made market-linked. The current scenario where the administered price and the market price are very near to one another provides a good opportunity. Marking the oil prices to market also removes the burden from the ruling political parties who constantly resort to tweaking and manipulating oil prices as populist measures to win votes. Maybe it's also time to look into the merits of privatising oil companies. Once competition is brought in, such strikes could be averted and employees also are better rewarded. And if they are not happy with their employer, they would be free to go and work elsewhere. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

US-64 DRAWS TO A CLOSE; WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

As the country oldest mutual fund scheme, now US-64 Bonds, are set be redeemed, it’s tough to find an equally alternative investment. There are some that come closeThe oldest mutual fund scheme in India, Unit Trust of India (UTI)’ Unit Scheme – 64 (US-64), will soon be no more. After more than 40 years of existence, curtains will fall on the US-64 bonds that mature on 31 May 2008. UTI has already sent out letters to all bond-holders about the redemption; investors are told to submit their original certificates, take their money back and leave.

For investors like Kolkata-based, Kumaresh Mukherjee, 72 it’s the end of an era. Soon after he retired from Philips India, he invested his provident fund corpus in fixed – return instruments like company fixed deposits. An electrical engineer by profession, in 1995 he also invested Rs 12 lakh or around one-third of his retirement corpus in the erstwhile US-64. After years of above-average returns, then trapped doors and turmoil that shook the Ind…

Pay Credit Card Bills Through ATMs

Tired of being ignored by ICICI Bank credit cards by being left out of their premium services despite being a loyal customer, I got myself a new credit card by HDFC Bank. It's another thing that HDFC Bank promised me a gold card with a higher spending limit, but then threatened to give me a silver card. When I strongly protested to their ways, they issued me a gold card, but with a much-lower-than-promised spending limit. I think the credit card companies ought to be made more accountable through stricter laws that are widely publicised (I recently read an RBI advertisement in the paper that if a credit card company rejects your application for a credit card, it has to give the reasons in writing; I never knew that!!!) and ought to made to pay for promising one thing, but delivering something totally different. SBI Cards too chased me for a month last year and promised to give me a platinum card with a high spending limit. What I finally got was a much-watered down Gold Card with …

My first ever Rajdhani experiance

As a kid, the Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani Express used to be this legend that I dreamt often. Although train travel was an integral part of my childhood, Rajdhani remained a distant dream. A dream that only zipped past me at 120 km/hr overtime I saw it. A dream that announced it arrival from a great, great distance by the sounds of twin diesel locomotives and its generator cars at either sides of the rake. A sound that was as intimidating to rail enthusiasts like me as a Bullet motorcycle is to a biker. In those days, it used to be hauled by two diesel locomotives so that it wouldn't need to spend much time at Vadodra station changing its locomotives. One of the two diesel locos would detach itself from the train and the other one who simply haul it al the way to Delhi. When I used to go to Valsad during some of my summer holidays at my cousin's house, it was a ritual. Take a picnic basket, leave the house at sharp 6, go to the yard just before the station, position ourselves on…