Privatisation Of Ports: Govt To Hold Talks With Unions Today

New Delhi, April 26 | Updated: Apr 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
The shipping ministry has convened a crucial meeting with major port workers unions on Tuesday. The meeting, to be chaired by shipping secretary DT Joseph, will be attended by representatives of all the five major port workers federations.

Besides discussing issues relating to wage revision agreement signed by the federations with the government in 2001 after a strike at major ports, sources said the meeting would take stock of privatisation of port facilities. The unions are expected to specifically raise the issue of hiring of private equipment by port managements despite under utilisation of its own equipment.

Federations usually do not come out openly in support of any privatisation effort though they are largely supportive of privatisation efforts. They have been raising this issue of over deployment of private equipment in various meetings, said an official.

The five federations representing over 80,000 workers of major ports are the All-India Port & Dock Workers Federation, All India Port & Dock Workers Federation (Workers), Water Transport Workers Federation of India, Indian National Port & Dock Workers Federation and Port & Waterfront Workers Federation of India.

Another major issue to be discussed would be the appointment of labour trustees on board of port trusts. The government under the current practice appoints trustees representing labour on the managing boards of port trusts.

Sources said that the ministry was keen to make such appointments more transparent by introducing a system of secret ballot among labour, or a check system. Under the former system, employees can be asked to cast their vote to identify the federation to which they owe allegiance and accordingly representatives could be appointed. The system would also involve documenting the membership of all the federations but through an open vote.

Ministry officials said the federations were not keen to adopt these measures though the government wanted to have a more representative system in place.

The other issues to be discussed are productivity and monitoring of labour at the 12 major ports in the country.