Talks fail as IOCL and contract labourers’ union stick to their guns
The short supply in cooking gas because of the strike by contract labourers at the Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOCL) LPG bottling plant at Inamkulathur on the outskirts of the city is likely to turn acute over the next few days as talks between the IOCL and the striking workers’ union remain deadlocked.
The strike by the contract labourers, seeking additional staff for the second filling line that was commissioned at the bottling plant recently, has created a huge backlog in supply of refills in the central districts. IOC sources say the workforce at the unit was in line with its national benchmark and its other bottling units were working with the same workforce as here.
Talks with the union held so far have failed. Officials of the Labour Department are also involved in the talks and another round of negotiations are scheduled next week, the sources said. But as the waiting list is increasing with each passing day, the situation is expected to turn worse.
Capt. R.S.Jagadeesan, president, All India Indane Distributors Association (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry), conceded that more delay in supply of refills was likely as the talks had failed. “The IOCL management has for the past few days been arranging a small supply of commercial and domestic cylinders from nearby LPG bottling plants. This interim supply is unable to meet the demand as the waiting list is huge,” said Mr. Jagadeesan, who is an Indane distributor in the city.
The bottling plant has been producing 21,400 LPG refills a day from one filling line and its capacity was doubled with the commissioning of the second filling line on March 18. But the output from the plant has stopped. Distributors, he said, would endeavour to clear the waiting list as quickly as possible once the supply resumes.
The strike has come at a time when distributors were expecting a big jump in supply with the commissioning of the second filling line. But that was not to be as the contract labourers have been on strike since March 20.
With IOC being the major supplier in the region, thousands of consumers in Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, and Nagapattinam districts have been hit hard. All these districts depend heavily on the bottling plant at Inamkulathur. The time gap for supply of refills from the date of booking has now increased to 35 to 40 days. Previously, consumers in most parts of these districts were getting refills in less than 10 days from the date of booking. Several consumers have been deprived of their quota of subsidised cylinder for the financial year ending March 31.
Consumers in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts are the worst hit. According to Capt. Jagadeesan, the backlog in these districts has crossed 90,000. In Tiruchi district, there were about 60,000 consumers on the waiting list. The situation is slightly better in Tiruchi city although consumers in the rural areas in the district have also been hit.
IOC sources said supplies from other bottling plants in the State, including Erode, Salem, Mannargudi, and Mayiladuthurai, have been diverted to tackle the situation although they were far less than the requirement.