Hunger strike on the Bombay High

Vol 4, PW 19 (25 Oct 00) Exploration & Production

ONGC has averted a major labour crisis among its workers on the Bombay High.

Credit for this goes to some swift action by top management. On 13th October, about 1,500 workers on 10 rigs began a two-day hunger strike in protest at the lack of 'rigmen' - workers on the rig floor who carry out crucial manual work.

Organised under the Association of Scientific and Technical Officers, the ONGC staffers demanded that management fill up the120 'rigmen' vacancies within a month. "We have been doing the job of the rigmen for the past five years," LK Mirchandani, ASTO president tells Petrowatch, "Management refused to fill up the positions despite our requests so we had no choice but to begin direct action." Officers threatened to completely stop working from October 16th.

On Saturday, October 14th, ONGC's technical director R C Gourh (who holds additional charge of drilling director) flew from Delhi to negotiate with the hunger strikers, several of whom had by now fallen sick. Gourh promised to fill up the 120 vacancies in a month's time, but ASTO refused his verbal assurances, and demanded a written commitment.

Only when Gourh made a written commitment that no officer should work below his job profile and that ONGC would recruit 120 rigmen within a month did ASTO call off the hunger strike. As a conciliatory gesture, Gourh offered sweet limejuice to the fasting officers onshore.

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