The Southern Region Bulk LPG Transport Operators Association (SRBLPGTOA) has unanimously decided to continue the indefinite strike till oil companies finalise the transportation charge at Rs. 2.80 per tonne per km (in plains) and induct all the 552 trucks that took part in the new tender process, its president M. Ponnambalam said on Monday.

He was speaking to The Hindu after chairing the association's emergency general body meeting held here to brief the members on the talks held in Chennai on Saturday with oil companies. The meeting also elicited the views of the members on the strike that began on March 1. More than 300 members took part in the meeting and pressed the demands of the association.

Mr. Ponnambalam said a letter in this connection and a copy of the resolution of the meeting were sent to the top management of the three oil companies – Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPC) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPC) and the Civil Supplies Commissioner and Transport Commissioner of the Government of Tamil Nadu. “Neither the State government nor the oil companies have informed us or invited us for the next round of talks,” Mr. Ponnambalam said and added that association representatives were ready to take part in further talks to put an end to this strike, but not at the cost of reducing the transportation charges any further.

Association Secretary N.R. Karthik said that during four rounds of talks with the companies, the association had brought down their demand from Rs.3.63 (plains) to Rs.2.80 per tonne per km but the companies increased it by just two paise – from Rs. 2.43 to Rs. 2.45. “During the talks at Chennai, representatives of those companies only said that they would confirm the rate at Rs. 2.50 after discussing with their top management,” he added.

Executive Committee Member of the association R. Jothi Basu termed the calculations of the oil companies illogical. “In 2002, we operated for Rs. 1.78 per tonne per km when the price of diesel was Rs. 20.93 a litre”, he said.

“In the last 10 years, the diesel price has increased to Rs. 43.95 (up by 210 per cent) but the companies are not ready to offer more than Rs. 2.45 per tonne per km,” he told this paper. He said that corresponding to the diesel price hike, the transportation charge should be Rs.3.74 per tonne per km.

Earlier, during the meeting, president of the State Lorry Owners Federation of Tamil Nadu (SLOFTN) K. Nallathambi said the federation would extend its support to the SRBLPGTOA. He also made an appeal to the governments of Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to urge oil companies to finalise the rates as the strike would directly affect consumers cylinders in those State.