Friday, January 16, 2009

Bravo !

We heart Sanjay Dutta of TOI for doing the other side of the story on the failed strike of oil PSUs. This was a strike that had our full moral support as officers of Navaratna brotherhood, since our fates are tied together. Full support, notwithstanding the mad rush for the last drop of fuel at the petrol pumps, and the worry over how to cook dinner without gas, the kind experienced by the whole country. (Of course, we could not go on strike on our own. There are reasons for this. For one, nobody seems to bother if our seel plants stop rolling out bars, sheets and coils for a few days. Or weeks, if we so fancy. In fact, we can almost hear a faint "good riddance". The second thing is that we are cowards. Under extreme aggrievement (not a word. I know), we might consider wearing a "black badge", but please don't ask for more. But I digress...) Our Government, with uncharacteristic toughness, had quashed the oil strike. The groundwork behind the heavy handedness involved a clever manipulation of media, which helped build massive public antagonism against their cause. Take this for example, on that same newspaper two weeks ago. To say nothing of the self styled soapbox newscasters of Aaj Tak and Zee News (Desh bhar me mach gayi hahakar, tel adhikari kar rahe hain betan barhane ka byapaar..)
It seems the oil executives, flailed by the government propaganda machinery more than anything else, have at last anonymously approached the media to let out their story. A good story it is, too. I quote :

Among the things let out by the government is that the starting salary of these officers is Rs 1 lakh and it goes up to Rs 3 lakh — an amount that does not justify their demand for even higher salaries, especially at a time when the economy is struggling to stay afloat.
The government contention is false. Not just that, it is aimed at creating a national "consensus" for a severe crackdown that would break the officers' back. This is why it has sacked over 70 officers, and with its motivated propaganda, created an atmosphere where the officers have no forum to present their case.
This is the salary slip of a Grade B officer in an oil PSU, who is an engineer and an MBA to boot, with five years of service. Here's what the officer got this November — his gross salary came to Rs 38,772 and after deductions, he got a net salary (or take-home salary) of Rs 22,890. And in this case, the deductions were less as the officer has not taken any loan from the company.
So, he took home a little less than Rs 23,000. Now, compare this with what professionals of his qualification would be getting in the private sector. This is despite the fact that oil companies are among the most cash rich companies in the country. And this is also despite the fact that bureaucrats, teachers and others have all got hefty pay hikes.

"Attaboy"! We cheered Mr. Dutta. Having suffered the iniquity for so many years oneself, one couldn't have put it better. We mean, this is the voice of support we really needed after all the damage the same publication has done. Sob stories help sell newspapers, but don't amount for anything in this context. Not that this also could help much, since the bureaucracy has maneuvered the situation into an irreparable no-win zone.

So what's the real story? What were the oil PSUs offered and what did they want?

PSU Pay panel recommendation

The committee headed by Justice MJ Rao submitted their recommendation in last June. They had categorized the CPSEs into five grades. For the topmost A+ category, mainly Navaratnas, they had proposed higher risk pay and performance related incentives across the board. This report was in public domain, viewable by all who could withstand 27 pages of tables and legalspeak. The A+ category was poised to gain substantially. This got the babus green with envy that many executives of top PSUs were going to earn more than them. When in November the proposals came up for approval, they cleverly scrapped away the A+ category, bringing all profit making PSUs in the same grade, irrespective of size, profitability, performance record and importance to the nation. At the same time they whipped up such frenzy that every newspaper, business spread or news channel would refer to the revision thus approved, nothing but a bonanza, a windfall, a jackpot. There were publications bringing forward lone voices of discontent, but these were washed away under the deluge of misinformation.

The oil PSU officers only wanted the proposals in the original report to be implemented in toto. With full clarity towards the variable part of their pay. But it was not to be. The gormint servants wouldn't have any of it.

I will stop ranting right here. If anybody at all has wondered why I didn't write anything in the interim, let it be known that minimum wage earners do not blog much. Adios, amigo. Will post if and when I've got enough to keep the home fires burning.



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