Public sector officers’ association against privatisation of BPCL

A grouping of public sector officers’ associations wants the government to drop the idea of privatising Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) but said it would not go for a strike to press its cause as it was faced with a “mighty” government.

Representatives of officers’ associations from several state-run companies such as BPCL, Indian Oil, ONGC, GAIL, NTPC, SAIL and BHEL said at a press conference on Monday that BPCL’s proposed privatisation was like killing the golden goose and would hurt the economy, government’s social welfare programme and energy security.

Selling BPCL at current market price of about Rs 1.06 lakh crore would fetch the government just Rs 74,000 crore, including control premium of 30%, much less than the real value of the company, they said. On replacement cost value basis, the company should be valued at Rs 9 lakh crore, including Rs 22,700 crore of its brand value, they said.

“Government is very mighty. We are not going for any strike,” said Mukul Kumar, the convener of Federation of Oil PSU Officers (FOPO) and Confederation of Maharatna Officers’ Association (COMCO), on whether the federation was planning a strike.

Executives and workers at BPCL have been opposing the government’s decision to sell its entire majority stake in the company. The government plans to conclude the deal in this financial year and has already appointed legal, financial and valuation advisors.

Last month, BPCL workers’ union held a day-long strike but executives have refrained from going on strike, although they have been writing to the government against privatisation. BPCL’s employees, numbering about 12,500, are almost equally split between executives and workers, and therefore, a day-long strike by workers barely impacts the functioning of refinery or fuel supply. Further, the increasing proportion of temporary workers at plants dilutes the impact of a strike by permanent workers.

In recent decades, the power of employees’ unions has greatly eroded and industries have seen far fewer strikes.

If the government’s only aim behind privatisation was to bridge the fiscal deficit, employees of all public sector companies could offer to buy shares of BPCL and help raise funds, Mukul Kumar said, without giving any financial estimate on this.

Private players only seek profitable space in the economy and shun social responsibilities unlike public sector companies and therefore privatising BPCL would hurt the country, said Anil Medhe of BPCL’s officers’ association.

“We are not against privatisation. But private players should come and build their own infrastructure. They should not be handed everything on a platter,” said Kumar.


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