The port and dock workers numbering around 20,000 and over one lakh pensioners of major ports will observe a one-day token strike on October 26 in all the major ports in the country, demanding immediate revision of wage structure, pensionary benefits and other service conditions.

T Narendra Rao, deputy general convenor of the National Coordination Committee of Major Port Workers Federations, said workers are agitated over the inordinate delay in settling their wage revision, which could have been implemented from January 1. The demands include revision of wages and other service conditions, including pensionary benefits for Group “C” and “D” employees; payment of PLR beyond 2020-21 as per the consensus reached by a settlement; Implementation of various statutory settlements and court orders on various issues, etc.  

According to Rao, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways constituted the Bipartite Wage Negotiating Committee in June, 2021 with a guideline to major port authorities to settle the issue within the period of six months. However, the port managements have denied the legitimate wage increase by misinterpreting the port performance and its paying capacity, he alleged.

The number of regular employees has come down drastically to 20,460 across 11 major ports as on March 31, 2022, compared to 1.25 lakh in 1990. At the same time, the cargo handled since the year 1996-96 to 2021-22 has gone up from 227.26 million tonnes to 672.68 million tonnes.

The net surplus of all the major ports also increased from ₹1,947.48 crore in 2011-12 to ₹4,131.48 crore during 2021-22. Productivity and the net surplus of major ports increased many folds despite a steep decline in manpower, he said.

Since the formation of the wage negotiating committee, he said only four meetings were held. However, there is no sign of arriving at an early settlement. The last BWNC meeting, which was held at Visakhapatnam in July, saw the Chairman of the Indian Ports Association assure finalisation of a settlement at the next meeting, which was scheduled in New Delhi in August.

However, that meeting was cancelled for unknown reasons without announcing a further date for the next BWNC meeting, Rao said.

It was also decided to wear black badges by workers on October 17 to 19 when the government is organising Global Maritime India Summit in Mumbai, he added.