Despite Ernakulam being declared a nokkukooli-free district in January this year, the practice of notional deployment of labourers in segments that do not call for manual interventional continues to extract a heavy price from enterprises like the Cochin Port Trust.

Though the Port Trust is learnt to have drawn the attention of the State government to labour practices that have made cargo operations here uncompetitive vis-à-vis neighbouring ports, there has not been much action, industry sources said.

In a communication early this year, the Port Trust pointed out that widespread notional deployment of labour and other practices had turned cargo operations at Kochi unviable for many customers. However, the State government is yet to respond to these complaints, sources told The Hindu on Sunday, pointing out that some of the port’s cargo operations straddled two worlds — one using mechanical equipment and the other seeing notional deployment of labour, which charged as if works were carried out manually.

Even the recent exemption granted by the Labour Department to materials unloaded or loaded using cranes from the purview of works reserved for head-load workers appear ineffective. A Labour Department official told The Hindu that even in these cases hooking had to be done manually by workers.