Strikes claimed more than 60 days, accounting for 985 man hours, in the three plants at Kollam, Malappuram and Kochi

A backlog of more than 15 lakh cooking gas cylinders was created in the State during the current financial year, thanks to a slew of hartals and strikes at the three LPG bottling plants of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

Strikes claimed more than 60 days, accounting for 985 man hours, in the three plants at Kollam, Malappuram and Kochi that functions in two shifts of eights hours each. Indane, the LPG wing of IOC, claims more than 50 per cent market share in the State.

Most number of days were lost in the oil major’s bottling plant at Parippally in Kollam district where the functioning was disrupted for 35.75 days, accounting for 572 man hours, leading to a backlog of 10.72 lakh cylinders. Except for May and June, at least a day’s operation was affected in the plant every month during the ongoing financial year.

While more than six days were lost in October owing to strike by drivers of LPG trucks, another five days were lost in September when the truck crew went on strike demanding bonus for Onam. About 160 man hours were lost when the operation of the plant was hit for ten days after labourers resorted to ‘go-slow’ protest.

The labourers reduced the productivity to 50 loads per day before increasing it to 100 loads at the intervention of labour department officials. Even now the plant is not working at the functional capacity of 130 loads per day following a standoff with the contractor concerned after the labourers owing allegiance to one union switched side to another. A hartal each in July and September didn’t help and the latest strike was reported in the plant on March 10.

The loss of 344 man hours spread over 21 days at the bottling plant at Chelari in Malappuram created a backlog of 3.44 lakh cylinders during this fiscal. A maximum of 11 days were lost earlier this month due to strike by housekeeping labourers demanding wage revision while the operations were disrupted for another four days citing the same reason last May. The three hartals, including one called by a political outfit demanding bifurcation of Malappuram in September and another in protest against the government notification on Western Ghats in November, added to the woes of the oil company.

The bottling plant at Udayamperur in Kochi was better off where only three days, of which two were due to hartals, were lost, creating a backlog of 1.20 lakh cylinders.

IOC had to arrange for rescue supplies from neighbouring states to meet the demand during the crisis-ridden period. IOC sources said that it would take a minimum of four days to clear the backlog created by the stoppage of plants for a day during normal period while it may take longer during festive seasons when there is increased demand.

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