MUMBAI : Indian dockworker unions have deferred until 29 April a nationwide one-day strike that they had planned for 5th April, temporarily averting potential disruptions in the country’s government-owned port network.
The decision came after officials from the Indian Ports Association (IPA) met union leaders and expressed the government’s willingness to discuss the workers’ charter of demands.
“The IPA Chairman, in continuation of Monday’s (4 April) meeting, called further physical meeting to be held at Delhi on 27 April to discuss and decide remaining other issues, including the commencement of BWNC [bipartite wage negotiating committee] meeting,” a statement issued by the unions said. “Therefore, the leader of five major port workers’ federations, in their meeting, decided to postpone the proposed one-day strike to 29 April.”
A previous intervention by IPA had adverted threatened indefinite nationwide strikes across the 12 major government ports in December last year.
A consortium of five national labour federations, spearheading the workers’ cause, is essentially seeking a firm commitment from the government on three key demands: protection of jobs and benefits for existing and retired employees; inclusion of labour nominees on the ‘Major Port Authorities Board’ and continued union representation on the administrative board of each port, apart from wage improvements.
The new port law, implemented in November last year, aims to transform major port trusts into a corporate style of functioning on the back of greater operational freedom, enabling them to better compete with their minor/private rivals – a group led by Adani Ports.
“Non-compliance of several statutory settlements has deteriorated the situation further and thereby, the Federations were compelled to serve the strike notice,” the unions noted in their previous notice.
“Unfortunately, we feel that the Management and the Ministry, as usual, are giving the evasive reply to the trade unions and leaders by adopting unfair tactics by delaying decisions.”
Any labour or other forms of port disruptions would be a blow to the growth of India’s container trade, after the fiscal year 2021-22 ended on a solid note for all major ports amid continued strong export-import volumes. Local industry circles had expressed concerns about the adverse impact a port strike could have on trade acceleration efforts.
According to the latest provisional data, the volume of containers shipped in and out of 12 government ports soared nearly 17% to 11.23 million TEUs from 9.61 million TEUs in fiscal 2021-21. Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA)/Nhava Sheva led the pack, handling an all-time high of 5.68 million TEUs, a 21.55% increase.
“The new benchmark set by JNPA portrays the port’s substantial progress in the export-import trade, maritime, and port sectors,” the port said in a statement. “JNPA ensures to consistently enhance its operational efficiency by maintaining global standards and serving as the port of choice for the world.”