Port agents’ workers stage protest over ‘official apathy’

Contract workers staging a protest in front of NMPT at Panambur in Mangaluru on Monday.

Contract workers staging a protest in front of NMPT at Panambur in Mangaluru on Monday.

The All-India Port Workers’ Federation (AIPWF) of the All-India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), which is affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist), has decried the “apathy” of authorities in addressing the demands of workers engaged by those providing services to the New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT).

AICCTU vice-president V. Shankar told The Hindu that over 1,000 workers have been on strike since January 29 demanding implementation of the labour law provisions. Claiming to represent the unorganised workforce employed by over 20 stevedores and commission and forwarding (C&F) agents with the NMPT, the AIPWF said the workers, mainly drivers and crane operators, are not being brought under ESI cover and paid minimum wages, bonus, and provident fund.

Mr. Shankar said that with the NMPT gradually reducing direct employment of port workers, stevedores and C&F agents have filled the void with their workers. It is those workers who are bringing out cargo from the Port once it was offloaded from ships, he said. However, they work under very dangerous conditions and thus should be extended all statutory protection, the AIPWF said.

While the NMPT has shrugged off the responsibility, the district administration too has not responded even as employers are unleashing terror by approaching the police, Mr. Shankar claimed. He alleged that the employers did not attend meetings called by the Deputy Labour Commissioner of the Centre to resolve the issue.

‘Laws implemented’

However, employers claimed they have implemented all the labour laws. Mangaluru Stevedores’ Association president Shekhar Poojary said only a few small-time entrepreneurs who have very few employees may not have extended the benefits, as they are not statutorily bound to do so.

“The AIPWF is not a recognised union, and none of our drivers first approached us with their grievances,” Mr. Poojary said. Dismissing Mr. Shankar’s claim of employers not attending the meeting, he said it was called in Bengaluru on very short notice, that too on the day of the Karnataka bandh on January 25. The employers will attend the meeting scheduled in Mangaluru on Tuesday, he said.

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Printable version | Oct 5, 2022 11:11:18 am |