ONGC plan to outsource 23% of its workforce

Vol 26, PW 9 (20 Apr 23) People & Policy

'Privatisation' panic is gripping ONGC employees yet again following a proposal by chairman Arun Singh to outsource almost a quarter of its workforce by 2026.

A company HR group document summarises the plan: "The identified outsourcing avenues in terms of the number of persons is equivalent to 6326." Under review is a plan to replace retiring employees with outside consultants instead of hiring new employees on the official payroll.

ONGC has more than 27,500 employees. If adopted, a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests ONGC's outsourcing plan would replace 23% of its strength.

"Of these 6326 (roles earmarked for outsourcing), 1512 are executives (officers) and 4814 staff (mainly blue-collar workers) from which 1957 (651 executives and 1306 staff) persons are feasible (have the potential) to be outsourced in the year 2023," adds the ONGC note. "Further outsourcing avenues equivalent to 993 (414 executives and 579 staff) can be outsourced in 2024-2026."

ONGC's Nazira-based Assam asset has the most bloated workforce. As many as 982 jobs can be outsourced, 140 potentially in 2023 and another 86 by 2026.

Next is the Ankleshwar asset, with 660 people who can be replaced by consultants; Rajahmundry, with 566; Ahmedabad, 492; Mehsana, 489; and the Cauvery asset, with 416, are identified for outsourcing. These are the significant numbers onshore, while 672 are placed for outsourcing offshore.

This means ONGC will likely only recruit 690 new employees on its official payroll in 2023 compared to 1381 who will retire this year, leaving vacancies. This is a sharp decrease in the recruitment of regular employees on the payroll from the earlier proposal to hire 2067 people under a now-shelved Workforce Induction Plan 2023.

"There is a clear threat of privatisation," warns LK Mirchandani, president of the All India ONGC Ex-Employees Welfare Association (OSEWA). "But serving employees are afraid to speak out."

On April 7 (2023), Mirchandani wrote to ONGC chairman Singh with his fears. "There is a strong buzz in the market about ONGC privatisation or converting it to a holding company," writes Mirchandani.

"We strongly feel that the introduction of any sudden, sweeping changes, may be counterproductive and severely dent India's vision of reducing its reliance on imported energy."