The Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) suffered a loss of Rs.80 crore till Saturday owing to the indefinite strike by contract workers since May 30, demanding wage revision.
“Nearly 2,000 workers employed by 170 contractors have struck work as ordered by the CITU-affiliated Cochin Shipyard Workers' Union (CSWU), affecting its mainstream operations, causing whopping and escalating loss…,” a CSL spokesperson said in a press release on Saturday.
The work stoppage has affected shipbuilding and repair projects, which are time-bound and labour intensive.
According to sources, the construction of the already delayed Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) for the Navy and platform supply vessels for overseas customers has been badly hit by the strike. “Delayed delivery of vessels invariably invites exponential cost escalation and liquidated damages,” said the CSL release.
Demands wage hike
The dispute regarding wage hike and other terms and conditions of employment that led to the strike is between the Cochin Shipyard Contractors Federation and the CSWU.
“The shipyard is not a direct party to the dispute, but an affected party being the principal employer,” it added.
The release also noted that the agreement between the contractors' federation and the workers' union was due for revision since January last year.
Maintaining that the contract workers were receiving wages at rates stipulated by the Contract Labour (Regulations and Abolition) Act, 1970, the CSL said that the daily wage hike demanded by the union did not have any “semblance of comparison with the prevailing best rates and conditions enjoyed by similar workers in any other industry in India”.
No solution at meetings
The CSL said that conciliatory meetings were held by the Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) to address the demand, but the union tightened its stance.
Alleging that that some contractors also doubled up as office-bearers of the union, the CSL said that over and above its original demands, the union, in the meetings, demanded “more from the shipyard management for a particular category of contract workers whose contracts are undertaken by the aforementioned office-bearers of the union”.
It also claimed that the union insisted that unless the CSL gave a commitment to pay gratuity amount to the contract workers engaged by the union-sponsored contractors, the strike would not be called off.
Despite the management's assurance that the demand would be dealt separately provided the workers complied with statutory legal obligations, the union paid no heed to it, the CSL maintained.