The first train is scheduled to chug along the Aluva-Palarivattom reach of Kochi Metro in December 2015. “Only if regional-level labour unions permit,” the officials associated with the project had warned.

They spoke of how several piling and test piling sites of the metro have too many workers, after a few labour unions insisted that their workers too be deployed alongside skilled workers posted by contractors. The result – a good many of the workers owing allegiance to regional unions are idling at work sites.

“This is nothing but improvised nokkukooli. For the past couple of months, contractors have been paying these workers. But we fear that this will increase the project cost because contractors might soon demand reimbursement of the wages paid to workers owing allegiance to unions,” sources associated with the metro said.

In the long run, this might affect the pace of works since the idling workers are setting a bad example for others, adversely affecting the work culture. Though undue interference from trade unions is prevalent only at piling sites, it will begin to dampen the project once piling and related civil works begin in more places. Aimed at speedy and timely completion of the project, modern machinery has been deployed at work sites and the need for workers is minimal. The sources associated with the metro said they were willing to accommodate a few regional workers in each site, given trade union leaders shed their stand that everyone in the list given by them be paid irrespective of whether they work or not.

Reacting to the issue, District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareeth said a contracting firm had recently apprised him of the practice. “We will convene a meeting within a couple of days to resolve the issue since it goes against the spirit of the mutually agreed system evolved by labour officials on accommodating union workers.”

A senior metro official said there was no question of project cost escalation since the contracting firm would have to bear the additional expenses. But there are doubts on whether this would be at the cost of the quality of works.

Undue interference from trade unions has lessened at the metro’s casting site in HMT following a string of media reports that exposed demands for nokkukooli.

Stakeholders associated with the metro demanded that the State government intervene in the issue since work on the project was picking pace after a few initial delays.

Responding to the issue, district secretary of CITU K.N. Gopinath said the contractor constructing metro’s via duct and stations in the Aluva-international stadium stretch had agreed to accommodate six workers in each of their piling sites. Sub contractors in a couple of other sites were opposed to this. “We are willing to have a relook, if there are problems,” he said.

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