Govt mulls performance-related pay for major port workers

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on June 18, 2019 Published on June 18, 2019

Currently, pay hikes of port and dock workers are finalised through bilateral negotiations between the port management and representatives of the six workers Federations. (File photo)

May find it tough to negotiate the plan with unions

Outlining its next dose of reform for the Central government-run ports, the Shipping Ministry has flagged off a plan to link the salaries and wages of over 32,000 port and dock workers to performance.

For the government, this could be the most difficult change to navigate past the strong port workers’ unions.

“As a concept, we are trying to push for performance related pay,” a Ministry official said. In future, pay revision in the major ports sector will be based on the performance of the individual worker, he added.

Currently, pay hikes of port and dock workers are finalised through bilateral negotiations between the port management and representatives of the six workers Federations. “We discuss and finalise it (the hike) – fitment and other things – that has nothing to do with performance. We want to link salaries and wages to performance,” the Ministry official said.

“It cannot be that whatever you do, you get your salary and increment. We will discuss and take everybody into confidence and try to convince them that this is required. The more you perform the more you get as hike,” he added.

Unions say the plan will not work out in the major ports sector because the factors determining performance are not in the hands of workers.

“The factors relating to increasing performance or productivity are not in the hands of workers or labourers because it relates to various infrastructure at the ports. Private ports have the most modern equipment and other infrastructure. In major ports, performance cannot be in the hands of workers, it depends on modernisation and mechanisation,” says T Narendra Rao, general secretary, Water Transport Workers' Federation of India, one of the six worker’s Federations.

The plan to link pay to performance was briefly discussed at a meeting called by the Indian Ports Association (IPA) — the umbrella body representing the major ports — with the Federation leaders and port management on June 14.

The meeting decided that the IPA will give a proposal to the Federation leaders on performance-related pay for further discussions.

The port and dock workers secured a 10.6 per cent hike on their basic pay plus DA under a new five -year wage settlement pact signed between the port management and the six Federations in August last year.

The lowest grade of workers got a pay-scale of ₹20,900-43,600 and the highest grade worker managed a pay-scale of ₹36,500-88,700 for five years beginning January 2017.

The wage settlement spiked the overall wage and pension bill of the dozen ports by about ₹560 crore per annum.

The wages of port and dock workers at major ports are revised once in five years after their wage revision was de-linked from other Central government employees in 1969.

The Ministry is looking to finalise the performance-related pay for port and dock workers before the next wage revision in 2022.

“The operating costs of major ports have been escalating which was impacting its competitiveness compared to nearby private ports. There is an urgent need to reign-in the operating costs to compete better with private ports,” the Ministry official said.

Published on June 18, 2019

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