Labour Minister holds talks

The LPG headload workers’ strike here has been settled following talks held by Labour Minister Shibu Baby John with representatives of oil companies, trade union leaders and contractors here.

The talks were held on Friday on the basis of a High Court directive.

To the contractors’ argument that the wages paid to the labourers included the levy too, the Minister said this was against the law, and the levy should be remitted at the Headload Workers Welfare Fund Board.

When the contractors stuck to their stance, the Minister said that they were bound to abide by the law, failing which the government would invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).

Though the workers had the right to go on strike, they were also bound to follow the law and should not go on strike during festival season creating hardships to the public.

The Minister said he had secured the permission of the Chief Minister for invoking ESMA if no consensus was evolved during the talks.

The labourers were being deployed by the welfare fund board. The argument that the wages included the levy was a violation of rules. Ignorance of law was no justification for violation.

The rules pertaining to remittance of levy would be made applicable across the State, he said.

The Indian Oil Company had agreed to maintain status quo on all matters while accepting the tenders, and neither the company nor the contractors could violate the conditions accepted by them.

The strike was not for a wage hike and it was on the issue of the payment of levy. Hence, they could not be blamed for the strike. But there was a tendency to call wildcat strikes during festival seasons.

Such agitations which blackmailed the public could not be permitted, he said.

The contractors and the company representatives sought a month’s time for discussing the levy issue. The company promised to settle the issue within a month.

Cylinder distribution was expected to be gain normalcy within two days.

The laxity in implementing the Headload Workers Act was the main reason for the problems in various sectors, the Minister said.

Labour Secretary X. Anil, Labour Commissioner T.T. Antony and Additional Commissioner Johnny Vincent were among those who attended the meeting.