The indefinite strike announced by houseboat workers, demanding higher wages and a bonus began here on Saturday.

With the workers busy taking out processions and protest marches, all the houseboats operating from Alappuzha had to cancel bookings. Several tourists who had arrived unaware of the developments were forced to re-schedule their plans. The situation even so, did not dampen the foreign tourists’ spirits. They spent most of their time walking alongside the Punnamada Finishing Point and the busy Mullakal Street, where the Onam shopping crowd was an exotic sight to them.

Among those stranded in the morning were domestic tourist groups from Bangalore and Delhi and a foreign group from Italy. Meanwhile, efforts are on from various quarters to pacify the striking workers. The All Kerala Houseboat and Resort Workers’ Union president C.K. Sadashivan, MLA, told The Hindu that a discussion between the houseboat owners associations and the workers was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday.

According to the workers, their basic pay, which was Rs.3,500 at present, had to be hiked to Rs.5,500 and the existing daily wages of Rs.110 had to be raised to Rs.250. The last pay revision for the workers was in September 2008, after a six-day strike had paralyzed the backwater tourism industry, particularly in Alappuzha.

The strike is estimated to cause losses to the tune of at least Rs.35 lakh to Rs.40 lakh per day to the tourism industry, more so because this year’s season was moving into a better pace after the Nehru Trophy Boat Race last Saturday.

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