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Lorry crew on strike, LPG to be in short supply

Special Correspondent
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Indane consumers in southern districts will be affected

With workers of lorries transporting LPG cylinders from the Indian Oil Corporation bottling plant at Paripally, near here, going on strike from Monday morning, consumers in the southern districts will face a shortage of the cooking fuel. The workers are demanding a settlement of their Onam bonus.

The lorries transport the cylinders to 87 gas agencies in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha districts and parts of Kottayam and Idukki. Every day, 148 lorries leave the plant with 120 loads of 37,080 cylinders — 309 cylinders in one lorry. An equal number of cylinders are brought back.

Three unions affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Indian National Trade Union Congress and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh are leading the strike.

The workers had gone on strike shortly before Onam in September, creating a heavy shortage of gas in the southern districts. They withdrew the strike on the night of September 14 when District Collector B. Mohanan confirmed receipt of a formal agreement from Indian Oil for payment of Rs. 22.05 lakh as advance to the lorry owners to settle the issue. But the money was paid to the workers as festival advance to be deducted from the salaries. The workers now insist that it was bonus. This led to the latest strike.

They demand a bonus of Rs. 10,000 for drivers and Rs. 5,000 for cleaners, the same sum paid last year for Onam.

S. Sudhir Kumar, secretary of the CITU-affiliated LPG Motor Workers’ Union, told The Hindu that 16 lorries had been exempted from the strike since their owners had given an undertaking to meet the demands of the workers. These lorries ply on a short-distance schedule.

Mr. Kumar said that on October 4, the unions, under a joint protest committee, gave notice to the Indian Oil management and the Labour Department authorities for a strike from October 18, if their demand was not met. The talks called by the Labour Department on October 17 failed.

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