Major port workers’ union backs off from strike

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Mumbai | Published: March 14, 2015 12:06:39 AM

One of the largest unions of public sector port workers under the All-India Ports and Docks Workers Federation has decided to withdraw...

One of the largest  unions of public sector port workers under the All-India Ports and Docks Workers Federation has decided to withdraw the strike notice which was served to oppose central government’s plan  to corporatise the 12 major ports of India.

The union’s withdrawal from the strike may eventually lead to clearing of a major hurdle in the government’s efforts to turn  port trusts into companies under the Companies Act.

In February, finance minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech proposed to convert 12 public sector port trusts into companies. The government’s decision did not go down well with the port workers as they were upset that they have not been taken into confidence while deciding to make, what they are calling, radical changes in the organisational structure of the ports and the consequences arising out of it.

However, on Friday, the port workers called off the strike after the officials in the ministry of shipping and representatives from Indian Ports Association (IPA) assured them that corporatisation would not lead to privatisation of ports. “We decided to withdraw our strike as the government officials have assured us in writing that the ports will not be privatised and all the apprehensions related to the future of the workers, pensioners, our previous wage issues will  be resolved in due course,” Mohammed Haneef, general secretary, All-India Ports and Docks Workers Federation told FE.

The decision to withdraw the strike came after a meeting between the senior officials from the ministry of shipping, the IPA, the chief labour commissioner, and the representatives of the port workers, held in Delhi, on Friday. The workers had postponed their March 9 strike call to March 16.

It has also been decided that there will be a 10-member committee formed with five representatives from the government and five from the workers to settle the apprehensions related to wages and prior issues of the port workers, which have remained unresolved so far, he said.

According to workers the goverment has also agreed to discuss with them the concerns they may have over the job, future of the workers, pensions and other changes, if any, that may come up as a result of corporatisation. “The committee has to submit its report in the next two months,” Haneef said.

Meanwhile, senior officials from Ports Association also said that the workers are not completely opposed to making port trusts into companies, they have some concerns, which are being addressed. “Corporatisation will bring in more efficiency and competitiveness in the fuctioning of the ports,” said a senior government representative.

One of the concerns that workers have is related to their role in the new organisational structure of the ports. “In the present form, the major ports function like a joint venture between the management and the workers. We are well represented and involved in the functioning. What will happen in the future we do not know,” Haneef said.

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