Truck drivers at Indane bottling plant want an increase in salary

A protest by truck drivers at the Indane bottling plant in suburban Manali threatens to disrupt cooking gas cylinder supplies during festive season in Chennai.

The plant, whose functioning is crucial for maintaining Indane supplies in many other parts of the State, did not function on Monday and Tuesday, which Indian Oil Corporation officials confirmed.

On Wednesday, cooking gas distributors, who are also truck operators, said the strike by drivers continues and no cylinder despatches were made from the plant. An IOC official, however, said the issue was resolved but the reason no despatches were made was lack of indents.

Loss of a day’s work at the plant means 15,000 cylinders less in the market. The Manali plant belonging to Indian Oil Tanking Ltd (IOTL) is one of three such facilities fulfilling the demand for Indane cooking gas in Chennai and suburbs.

Forty Indane distributors, with an estimated customer base of six lakh, are attached to the IOTL plant. There are a total of 100 distributors and the remaining draw supplies from Ennore and Chengalpattu plants of IOC.

At the heart of the problem is the segregation of cylinders, “thousands of them,” as an official said, undertaken in the last couple of months at the plant. A routine exercise at bottling plants, segregation involves identifying damaged cylinders when they come for refilling and send them for repairs. The drivers, bulk of whose salary is from the per trip charges, of around Rs.750, refused to transport the cylinders as the number of daily trips dropped after the segregation. “With many cylinders taken out of the system, there were less to be filled and consequently the number of trips came down,” sources among transporters said. The drivers are demanding that the transporters increase their salary, which is a nominal constant.

The number of loads despatched from the plant, which used to be around 100 two years ago, is around 50 a day. A load, referred to the number of cylinders per trip, is a little over 300 refills.

IOC officials, however, said the loss of work at the Manali plant should not be a matter of concern as there were excess bottling capacities. The shortfall – daily demand is 250 Indane loads – was being easily met from the other two plants. In turn, some supplies from Chengalpattu to other locations such as Tiruchi have been affected.