Kerala government steps in to avert strike at Cochin Port

May 12th, 2009 - 6:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi, May 12 (IANS) Kerala Port Minister M. Vijayakumar Tuesday said the state government will act as a mediator between the central government and agitating Cochin Port workers, who fear they will lose jobs over a new manning policy.
“We can always act as a mediator between the workers and the centre and we will do our bit,” Vijayakumar told reporters here.

Workers called for a daylong shutdown in the area Tuesday and an indefinite strike at the port from Wednesday.

They are protesting against the Cochin Port Trust’s (CPT) decision to implement the Kolkata-based National Industrial Tribunal’s directives on new manning scale and deployment of workers in various departments.

Seven out of eight trade unions, representing around 3,500 employees, are taking part in the strike, officials of the Cochin Port Samrakshana Samithi, an organisation that is spearheading the agitation, said.

K. Damodaran, general secretary of the Cochin Port Staff Association (CPSA), told IANS that the authorities did not take the workers into confidence before implementing the tribunal decision.

“There was talk between the unions and the management and we had insisted that the tribunal’s directives be implemented only after further detailed discussions. But, they went ahead arbitrarily to implement the new rules,” said Damodaran.

Union leaders said the new rules were against the interests of labourers and a large number of them will become jobless.

However, a top CPT official, who did not want to be identified, said there was nothing against the workers in the new decision and nobody would loss jobs because of the new rules.

“The reduction of manning scale will solve the problem of shortage of personnel in various categories and also make the cost of operation of the port cheaper,” he said, adding: “Already the ports at Vizag (Andhra Pradesh) and Paradip (Orissa) have implemented this new policy.”

Tuesday’s attendance was around 20 percent, he added.

CPT has first implemented the new policy in the traffic and the mechanical sections last month. The resistance came from the marine sector, which employs around 380 people.

The official, however, agreed that the employees would “lose a good amount of overtime wages” under the new rules.

The port handled 15.23 million tonnes of cargo in 2008-09 as against 15.75 million tonnes the previous fiscal, registering a fall of 3.34 percent.

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