Chennai strike talks continue as cargo piles up

Chennai strike talks continue as cargo piles up

CHENNAI -- Talks to end a strike by union dockworkers at P&O Ports' Chennai Container Terminal in India are to continue Friday even as trade and industry expressed concern over the pile-up of cargo.

Trade and industry sources said both export and import cargo, including perishable food, was stuck at the port since Sunday night when dockworkers walked off the job seeking higher pay and other benefits.

M. Raman, chairman of the state-owned Chennai Port Trust, met with Chennai Container Terminal Chairman and Managing Director Jimmy Sarbh Thursday. He also met with representatives of the trade and unions. Talks will continue Friday, officials said.

The management of the container terminal also is holding separate talks with government officials aimed at ending the strike.

Labor representatives said perishable cargo worth millions of rupees was rotting at the terminal in spite of moves by terminal management to bring in workers from other ports.

Some reports suggested that Singapore-based feeder lines could add a congestion surcharge of $50 per TEU as of Monday, but these could not be confirmed.

Auto makers with regional operations such Korea's Hyundai, which use the Chennai terminal, said their inventories would run low if the strike continued.

The Confederation of Indian Industry expressed concern, saying the terminal handled apparel, food products, chemicals, auto components, tires and tubes, and that the strike would create serious problems for these industries.