Ahead of turning ‘landlords’, 11 major ports to roll out special VRS

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on December 30, 2020 Published on December 30, 2020

Unions decry ‘agenda’ to dilute resistance when port authorities go for corporatisation

Eleven state-owned major port trusts have received approval from the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways to roll out a special voluntary retirement scheme (SVRS) as the government moves to trim flab ahead of a planned makeover of the governance structure of these entities.

The 11 major port trusts have about 25,000 employees comprising Class 1 and 2 officers and Class 3 and 4 cargo handling and non-cargo handling workers.

An employee opting for SVRS will be entitled to an ex-gratia payment equivalent to one-and-half months’ emoluments (basic pay plus DA) for each completed year of service, or the value of the emoluments that would have become payable for the balance months of service left, whichever is less.

Employees who have completed not less than 30 years of service will be eligible for up to 60 months’ salary as compensation. This will be subject to the amount not exceeding the salary for the balance period of service left.

The scheme will be applicable to employees who have completed 10 years of service and 40 years of age.

“The board should ensure that SVRS is extended primarily to such employees whose service may be dispensed without detriment to the port trust,” said the standard guidelines issued by the ministry.

“Care will be exercised to ensure that highly skilled and qualified workers and staff are not given the SVRS option and possibilities may be explored to accommodate them in other departments of the port,” the guidelines said. “All posts falling vacant as a result of the SVRS shall be abolished and they shall not be eligible for revival.”

The scheme will be open for six months.


Ports as landlords

The Major Port Authorities Bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha and is currently awaiting nod from the Rajya Sabha. Under the new law, the 11 ports will turn landlords — a model widely followed globally wherein the port authority maintains ownership of the port while the infrastructure is leased to private companies that provide and maintain their own superstructure and install their own equipment to handle cargo. The landlord port, in return, gets a share of the revenues from the private entity.

Thousands of workers are expected to become redundant under the new governance structure, wherein the port authority will be a lean entity. Separating workers voluntarily will raise the profitability of these ports by reducing the operating costs.

“It is imperative to make the major port trusts competitive by reducing the transaction costs not only to retain the business but also to accelerate their economic development and growth,” said a government official.

Workers unions, though, see a “hidden agenda” behind the SVRS plan. “By reducing the manpower, the government’s intention is to dilute workers’ resistance when the port authority goes for corporatisation,” said T Narendra Rao, General Secretary, Water Transport Workers’ Federation of India.

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Published on December 30, 2020
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