Oil Unions Oppose HPCL, BPCL Sale
Times News Network
April 27, 2003

MUMBAI: Oil companies' unions are gearing up for a showdown with the government on the disinvestment of Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum (BPCL). Twenty-six unions representing employees of the two oil companies, under the banner of the National United Forum against privatisation of oil PSUs, are being joined by unions from ONGC, IndianOil and Gail, to protest against the disinvestment of the oil companies.

Speaking to the press just before a convention of the unions in Mumbai, Swadesh Dev Roye, secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said they are completely opposed to the anti-national and suicidal policy of the government. They are also opposed to the government's plan of selling shares to the employees, which Mr Roye said was a "cunning and insulting" move to try and buy the employees. "The shares will not help anyone since the stock market is completely unreliable," he said. Listing out the eight companies that had submitted expressions of interest for HPCL, Mr Roye said, all of them were interested only in HPCL's extensive marketing network.

Commenting on Reliance Industries, he said, the company would eventually take a majority share in Bharat Petroleum, by the creeping acquisition method used in BSES. "The companies only want a market to sell their own petroleum products and will eventually close down the old BPCL and HPCL refineries," said Bhai Jagtap of Intuc.

This will lead to thousands of workers being thrown out of their jobs, he said. The unions had a meeting with the union minister for petroleum, Mr Ram Naik, in Mumbai earlier this month. The National United Forum had earlier struck work for three days in February. Citing figures, union representatives said HPCL and BPCL contributed Rs 21,750 crore as various taxes and dividend in '01-02, amounting to about 23% of their turnover. However leading companies like Reliance, Grasim, Bajaj Auto and Tata Steel together had a turnover of Rs 88,157 crore and paid only Rs 6,840 as taxes, about 8.5% of their turnover. The government is thus trying to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, the union said.

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