It seems there is no stopping the Oil Sector Officers’ Association’s call for an indefinite strike from Wednesday. The OSOA, which represents 45,000 oil PSU employees, is demanding higher wages.
Apart from crippling auto and cooking fuel supplies, a strike in the oil sector — even if it continues for a couple of days — can bring aviation services to a halt.
To deal with the strike call, the government is contemplating strict action by invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) or the National Security Act (NSA) against the employees who go ahead with the strike. A home ministry circular of 1982 classified operations in oilfields and refineries, and fuel distribution as ‘essential services’.
A strike in these sectors can also be dealt with under the National Security Act, 1980.
Petroleum minister Murli Deora said contingency plans had been drawn to keep oil and gas installations, and refineries running.
Commitments have also been sought from private refining companies -- Essar Oil and Reliance Industries -- to maintain adequate supplies of petrol, diesel and LPG in case of a shortage.
Petroleum secretary R.S. Pandey said the strike was illegal and the oil companies planned to initiate contempt-of-court proceedings against the employees who went on strike. “Most states have decided to invoke ESMA from Tuesday,” he said. “The Assam government has already invoked ESMA, while other state governments have said they’re in the process of doing so.”
Deora said the OSOA had refused to have a dialogue on the demand for higher wages. “This is despite my assurances that a high-level committee headed by home minister P. Chidambaram will give its report on the issues raised by them in 30 days,” he said.
Indian Oil Corporation’s chairman Sarthak Behuria said the immediate effect of the strike would be on the supply of jet fuel. He said the IOC had taken the help of senior officials and the Territorial Army to man all supply stations.
About the supply of fuels, he said, “We’ve enough stocks to last 30 days but the problems is loading the supplies and delivery.”