Houseboat workers across the State have threatened to launch an indefinite strike on Saturday, demanding a hike in their salaries and daily wages. They also demand a bonus for them.

The workers are demanding that their basic pay, which is Rs. 3,500 at present, should be made Rs. 5,500 and the existing daily wages of Rs.110 should be raised to Rs. 250. The last hike in their pay was effected in September 2008, that too, after a strike paralysed the backwater tourism industry in the State, particularly in Alappuzha, for six days.

Pointing out that they received no ESI or provident fund benefits, the workers said they had raised the issue a month ago with the All Kerala Houseboat Owners Association. The association, however, denied receiving any letter from any of the workers' associations or unions in this regard.

The strike, if launched, could mean heavy losses to houseboat operations in Alappuzha, Kottayam, Kozhikode and Kasaragod. Alappuzha, which has over 600 houseboats, will be the most affected.

The daily loss to the tourism sector, with this year's tourism season starting to look up, could be anywhere between Rs. 30 lakh and Rs. 50 lakh, members of the industry said.

During the workers' strike in 2008, the daily loss to the sector in Alappuzha was about Rs. 25 lakh. The workers, who were receiving a basic pay of Rs. 2,500 and daily wages of Rs.100 at that time, had stopped working for six days on the run, apart from preventing the houseboats from operating.