Union wins as ONGC sends back offshore crew

Vol 27, PW 12 (13 Jun 24) People & Policy

ONGC unions have won a temporary victory after the company began sending crew who have completed a 14-day duty cycle back to shore.

This aligns with union demands that the 14-day duty cycle at western offshore installations should remain unchanged. They oppose a May 17 (2024) order from Western Offshore Basin executive director C Mathavan ordering employees to work for 21 days offshore and then take a 21-day break (anytime) during the monsoon from May 15 to September 20.

"From around June 6 or 7 (2024), ONGC has begun de-boarding (sending back) crew who have completed 14 days offshore," confirms Santosh Patil, general secretary of the Petroleum Employees Union (PEU), to this report. "We are clear the offshore duty duration should not be changed."

About 3500 employees (1200 staff and 2300 officers) work at ONGC's western offshore installations. On June 5, the two unions (PEU and ONGC Karmachari Sanghatana) and ONGC attended a 'conciliation' meeting held in Mumbai under the Industrial Disputes Act (IDA), 1947 and hosted by Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner Sanjay Dabi.

Another meeting is scheduled for June 26 (2024). According to the minutes, unions complained that ONGC was not returning to shore crew who had completed a 14-day offshore duty cycle despite the unions invoking Section 33A of the IDA.

Section 33A says employees can make a written complaint to the conciliation officer when the employer changes service conditions connected to the pending dispute when the matter is under 'conciliation.' Unions argue that if the May 17 (2024) duty cycle change order is not scrapped, the crew must be allowed rest periods at offshore locations after the 14-day cycle until crew changes under the Mines Act, 1952. During the meeting, ONGC stressed that the 21-day cycle is just "a short duration change during the monsoon season" and that offshore installation managers can send a crew back even earlier than 21 days in emergencies.

ONGC staff unions have been protesting, since May 21 (2024), against the 21-day offshore duty order.