Petroleum Corporation official terms their demands unrealistic

The second indefinite strike by the Southern Region Bulk LPG Transport Operators Association (SRBLPGTOA), seeking fulfilment of their demands, began on Thursday.

Association secretary N.R. Karthik told The Hindu that trucks loaded till 11.59 p.m. on February 29 had moved to the bottling plants.

According to him empty tankers will remain at the loading points till the strike is called off after their demands of inducting the 552 new trucks and finalising the new transportation rates are met.

About finalising the transportation charges for the new tender for transporting LPG from the loading points to the bottling plants – from November 1, 2011 to October 31, 2014 – the secretary said that the association members quoted the transportation charge at Rs.3.99 for transporting one tonne LPG per kilometre in the hills and Rs.3.60 in the plains.

He said that the rates were based on the steady increase in recurring expenses such as 80 per cent increase in driver and crew salaries, 63 per cent hike in the price of tyres and 45 per cent hike in the price of spare parts. They had substantiated their claims with records and statistics.

“During the first round of dialogue held in January after the first strike – from January 12 to 19 – we reduced it to Rs.3.36 (hills) and Rs.3.26 (plains),” he said and added that it was reduced further to Rs.3.10 (hills) and Rs.3 (plains) during the second round of discussions held in the third week of February.

“But both discussion met with failure as the oil companies – Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPC), and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPC) – are not ready to finalise the rate at more than Rs.2.43 per tonne per kilometre”, he said.

A Petroleum Corporation official said that induction of all the trucks available with the operators irrespective of the requirement and a 70 to 80 per cent increase in transportation charge were not only unrealistic but lacked any scientific justification.

When some regions had agreed for Rs.2.19 and 2.26 per km for transporting one tonne of LPG, the demand for Rs.3 and above is not acceptable. The contract agreement clause has a provision to meet the increase in cost of diesel and also to bring it down when the prices are brought down. The fuel cost is thereby taken care of.

With regard to other overheads such as salaries and spare parts, price of no commodity had gone up by 70 to 80 per cent in the last three years and hence, the demand is not justifiable and acceptable.

A majority of the trucks belonging to Southern Region Bulk LPG Transport Operators Association are nearly eight years old wherein the loans availed for buying them had been repaid.

‘Holding to ransom'

The strike demanding “unrealistic” increase in transportation cost is nothing but holding the oil corporations and consumers to a ransom. Mileage and earnings for the operators in the south are much better than those in other parts of the country.

The demand for inducting all the spare trucks could be considered only if the truck operators come up with a scientific and reasonable demand for increase in transportation charges.