The largest workers’ union of the Indian Railways has warned the government of unrest brewing among employees against its plan to corporatise the Railways’ production units, PTI reported on Wednesday. They have called it the “first step towards privatisation”.
According to recent news reports, the railway ministry has come up with a 100-day plan to corporatise seven production units and associated workshops under one entity called the Indian Railway Rolling Stock Company.
“It is worth mentioning here that serious unrest is brewing among the employees working in production units of the Indian Railways, against the 100-day action plan of the Ministry of Railways,” All India Railwaymen’s Federation General Secretary Shiv Gopal Mishra said in a letter to Railway Board Chairperson Vinod Yadav.
The plan may result in “a serious threat to the industrial harmony prevailing for nearly four decades over the railway system”, Mishra wrote. Indicating that the unions were not consulted and the government and the railways may already have taken the decision, Mishra said: “In such an ambience, what the union representing the workers can state except that the workers will resist to the best of their ability and might.”
Mishra said the union is “of the firm opinion that all the production units of the railways, including the Modern Coach Factory, Rae Bareli, function efficiently and can be proud of their workforce and the management”. The Rae Bareli unit will be the first to be corporatised, according to the plan.
Mishra said the workers were open to plans to make the units financially and functionally autonomous. “Mere change in the form of the entity, we are convinced, will not bring about any performance-related improvements,” he said, citing the example of telecom service provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.
However, when the director general (personnel) visited the Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli on Tuesday, he was accosted by over 2,500 workers and met with “go back” slogans.
An unidentified railway official told The Indian Express that the unions were unaware of the plan and their concerns would be addressed when they meet the Railway Board next week.
National Federation of Indian Railwaymen head M Raghvaiyah wrote in another letter: “Facts reveal MCF has been performing very well and the efficiency parameters are fulfilled by this Production Unit. The employees on Indian Railways are also extremely agitated against the proposed move to corporatise production units which may be the first step towards privatisation.”
Indian Railways is also reportedly looking for routes where private players can operate passenger trains. The Delhi-Lucknow and Mumbai-Shirdi sectors are frontrunners in discussions so far, according to The Indian Express.