New wage pact talks for major port trust workers heading for crisis

P Manoj Mumbai | Updated on September 09, 2021

Employees of Mumbai Port Trust demonstrating against management's move to exit from wage talks.

Cash-strapped Mumbai Port Trust seeks exit from bipartite wage negotiation committee

The bipartite wage negotiation mechanism that finalises the wage structure of Group C and D employees at Centre-owned major ports trusts every five years is heading for a crisis with the Mumbai Port Trust seeking government nod to exit on-going talks citing financial stress.

Mumbai Port Trust is a member of the bipartite wage negotiation committee set up by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways in March this year to finalise a new wage settlement for some 27,500 employees at the 11 major ports trusts, beginning January 1, 2022.

Financial woes

The Mumbai Port Trust wrote in a September 6 letter to the Indian Ports Association (IPA), the body representing the management of the 11 major ports trusts in the talks with the five recognised workers federations, “Mumbai Port Trust cannot be a party, keeping in view the financial condition of the port trust, where there is absolute shortage of pension fund, gratuity fund and leave salary fund to the tune of ₹5,100 crore.”

“In fact, we are not in a position to release the wage revision arrears of the 2017 wage revision to the employees up to 100 per cent and we could release only 10 per cent so far,” Mumbai Port Trust stated.

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“Therefore, Mumbai Port Trust will not be in the position to participate in the said wage negotiations. Hence, Mumbai Port Trust may be delinked from the wage negotiations of all major ports,” it said.

“As and when the financial condition improves, then Mumbai Port Trust will come forward for wage revision of its employees and request a separate bipartite wage negotiation committee for the port,” it added.

The bipartite wage negotiation committee mechanism for wage agreement of port and dock workers has been followed since 1980.

Employee protest

Employees of Mumbai Port Trust held a demonstration inside the port on Wednesday to protest the management’s move to exit the talks.

“It is a bad sign for other port trusts also,” said T Narendra Rao, General Secretary, Water Transport Workers' Federation of India, one of the five recognised unions at major ports.

“Because other loss-making major ports such as Mormugao Port Trust, Chennai Port Trust, Cochin Port Trust and Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port Trust will also seek similar exits from the bipartite committee and there will not be any national level wage revision machinery for port and dock workers at major ports,” Rao said.

New wage agreement

According to the guidelines issued by the ministry to the IPA for finalising the new wage agreement, the compensation package should be arrived at considering the productivity, financial capability and sustainability of each port based on an analysis and study of sectoral status by comparing major port trusts with Kamarajar Port Ltd and similarly placed private ports.

The government said it will not provide budgetary support for the wage increase. “The entire financial implication would be borne by the respective port trust from their internal resources,” the ministry guidelines to the IPA added.

Published on September 09, 2021

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