Labour Minister Shibu Baby John will on Monday meet representatives of 11 trade unions, who will speak for drivers and helpers in around 1,000 container lorries that service the port of Kochi and the International Container Transshipment Terminal, after an eight-day strike brought cargo movement to and from the port and container terminal facility to a standstill.

The minister is scheduled to meet the trade union leaders during the break between Assembly sessions in the State capital. The lorry drivers and workers are asking for higher wages, better working conditions and basic amenities outside the International Container Transshipment Terminal premises on Vallarpadam island.

Convenor of Trade Union Coordination Committee Charles George alleged that container lorry owners had gone back on an initial agreement to pay 11 per cent of trailer rental to the driver and 5.5 per cent to the helper, a charge contested by trailer lorry owners, represented by Cochin Container Carrier Owners’ Welfare Association.

However, an office-bearer of the association told The Hindu the trailer owners had only questioned the trade unions’ demand for a percentage of the rentals instead of an increase on the present wages drawn by the drivers and helpers.

During all these years “we have given hike in pay based on the wages drawn by the lorry drivers and cleaners”, he said. It is not right now for the workers to demand a percentage of the rental charges as their pay. This will mean that the payment will go up as payments move up in keeping with the hike in diesel prices and surcharges there on, the spokesman added.

Two rounds of discussions, one with the district collector and another in the presence of labour department officials in the State capital last week failed to reach a solution. Mr. George criticised the Cochin Port Trust management and the government for what he alleged was irresponsibility on their part in not settling the strike at the earliest.

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