Houseboats in the district and nearby Kumarakom in Kottayam district did not operate its services for the second day on Tuesday as there seems to be no immediate solution to the failure of the talks with workers’ union in the sector.

All Kerala House Boat Owners Association general secretary, N. Sreekumar told The Hindu that the almost all the house boats out of the nearly 650 houseboats operating in the area suspended its services following the call by boat owners’ organisations. “Efforts were on in the ministerial-level to end the deadlock in the sector. The district administration led by Additional District Magistrate, in the absence of district collector, is likely to convene a meeting on Wednesday or Thursday,” he said.

The owners were alleging that the displeasure of CITU-affiliated Kerala House Boat and Resort Workers Union, representing nearly 60 per cent of the workers in the sector, over the entry of two relatively new organisations affiliated to INTUC and BMS was behind the non-settlement of the wages. The CITU union was demanding Rs 7,000 as monthly salary and Rs 200 as daily batta. According to owners, they were willing to pay a total monthly salary of Rs 6,600 and Rs 160 as daily batta. Currently, the workers have been paid a monthly salary of Rs 4,500 and a batta of Rs 125 per day.

Mr Sreekumar said that considering 60 per cent occupancy during this time in houseboats, one day strike will entail a loss of Rs 25 lakh to the sector.

According to owners, the demand of union will mean an additional burden of Rs 1.5 lakh per boat yearly on their shoulders. It may be recalled that the CITU union also failed to turn up at the two meetings of unions and owners organisations convened by the District Labour Officer (DLO) here last week, leading to the failure of these talks. The owners were determined to continue the suspension of services, till some solution arises.

The suspension of services in the houseboat sector, which employs 2,100 persons directly and about 6,600 persons indirectly, has sent jitters to the tourism industry.

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