Nearly 600 tanker lorries, that transport 1,200 kilo litres of petrol and 2,600 kilo litres of diesel a day for the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPC), remained off the road for the third day on Wednesday. Tanker lorry owners stood firm in their demand for an immediate revision of rates and a new long-term transport contract.
The strike continued as retail operators in different parts of the district complained of a shortage of fuel in HPC outlets. However, an HPC official said the company took precaution and operated extra hours on Saturday and Sunday to top up storage in the company’s retail units.
Secretary of Kerala State Petroleum Traders’ Association M.M. Basheer said in a statement that there was fuel shortage in HPC outlets and called on the government to intervene in the matter. He warned of a possible strike by tanker lorry operators serving other oil marketing companies in support of their counterparts with HPCL.
However, an official of Bharat Petroleum Corporation ruled out such a possibility and pointed out that the company had not received any notice so far on this front. The HPC transport contractors have resorted to stop work after the validity of the previous contract expired on May 31. There are 356 tanker lorries working with HPC at its Irumpanam terminal, outside the city. There are two depots — one in Kozhikode and another in Kasaragod — supplying petrol and diesel to HPC’s 554 retail outlets across the State. These depots are serviced by 128 and 90 tanker lorries respectively.
HPC accounts for about 26 per cent of the Kerala market for petrol and diesel.
Talks to end the strike on Tuesday failed because HPC management sought 15 days more to settle the issue, claimed secretary of All Kerala HPC Contractors’ Association Vakkachan Parekkattil. However, an official of the oil company said the previous contract allowed an ad hoc period of three months after its actual expiry on May 31. The company was well within time to reach a new agreement with its transport contractors. The official said the district administration was kept posted on the developments and the current situation as motor fuels fell into the category of essential items.
Mr. Vakkachan claimed the tanker lorry owners were forced to resort to a strike because the HPC management did not appear keen to enter into a new contract. He also claimed that the oil company was not willing to consider a plea from the contractors to pay them the rates paid by other oil marketing companies to their transport contractors.
Fuel bunks to down shutters
The All Kerala Federation of Petroleum Traders have declared support to the ongoing strike by HPCL transport contractors and have decided to down the shutters of fuel bunks in the State for 24 hours starting Sunday midnight. The decision was taken after an emergency executive meeting held on Wednesday night. The meeting was held following the failure of the collectorate meeting to resolve the issue. However, fuel bunks under the Kerala State Petroleum Traders Association will not participate in the strike.