Indian port and dock workers called for an indefinite strike starting Sept. 15 if the Shipping Ministry does not heed their demands for wage increases and other benefits.
A formal resolution to strike was adopted at a joint meeting of the five major labor federations held at Cochin on Thursday, representing nearly 100,000 workers employed at the country’s 12 major gateway ports.
Union leaders said workers were due to receive a wage increase in January 2007, but despite several rounds of talks with the Indian Ports Association, no agreement could be reached on basic issues.
The unionized workers were demanding a 34-percent increase in pay, while the government offered a raise of 18 percent.
Labor representatives had earlier asked Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan to intervene in a bid to find an amicable settlement but to no avail.
The strike threat comes at a time when major hubs are struggling to reach annual targets set by the Shipping Ministry for fiscal 2009-10 ending March 31 amid the slowdown in trade.
In fiscal 2008-09, the 12 major ports handled 530.35 million tons of cargo, up from 519.31 million tons in 2007-08, but the volume fell short of the ministry’s target of 576 million tons. Traffic during the April-July period was estimated at 180 million tons, compared with 178 million tons in the year-ago period. Container volume in the first four months declined to 2.2 million 20-foot equivalent units from 2.3 million TEUs.