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Productivity-linked reward scheme — Port, dock workers to press for flat 20 pc payment

P. Manoj

The existing productivity-linked rewards scheme gives a flat rate of 20 per cent to the workers at all the major ports irrespective of profits and productivity, subject to a salary cap of Rs 2,500 per month per employee.

NEW DELHI, Sept. 12

THE managements of port trusts and leaders of the workers' federations will hold a conciliation meeting with the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) on September 23 to settle the contentious issue of productivity-linked rewards (PLR) for 85,000 workers at the 12 major ports in the country.

All the four major port and dock workers' federations have decided to hold a nation-wide joint strike on a date to be announced after September 25 to press their demand for the continuation of the 20 per cent PLR paid to the port workers.

The workers are opposed to any change, even as the Government wants to switch over from the current uniform PLR scheme in vogue since 1994 to a system in which the rewards would vary from port to port.

"PLR has to be paid uniformly at all the major ports irrespective of profit or loss. When the service conditions, pay scales and perks are common to all the major ports, why should the PLR vary from port to port ?" asks Mr M.L. Bellani, Secretary, All India Port and Dock Workers' Federation.

However, the Government feels that PLR should be port-specific. "Better performing ports should pay more PLR to their workers while loss-making ports must stop paying it," Government sources said, adding that the new scheme was aimed at improving the productivity at the major ports.

The Ministry of Shipping has circulated a new formula for calculating the PLR to all the major port trusts taking into account various financial and physical parameters.

"However, the port trusts need not necessarily follow our formula, but can devise their own PLR formula," the sources said.

The federations fear that the workers at the loss-making major ports such as Mumbai and Kolkata would stand to lose if the new PLR is implemented. However, sources said that even under the new scheme, the average PLR would range from13 per cent to 18 per cent, depending upon the productivity and performance parameters at the ports.

In such a case, the lowest rate of PLR would still be higher than the minimum 8.33 per cent bonus that the workers would have got had the port trusts been covered under the Bonus Act.

The incentives given to port workers are called PLR as port trusts come under the definition of local bodies and are not covered by the Bonus Act.

The existing PLR scheme gives a flat rate of 20 per cent to the workers at all the major ports irrespective of profits and productivity, subject to a salary cap of Rs 2,500 per month per employee.

"While applying the all-India average formula as per the existing PLR scheme, the rate of PLR at some ports exceeded the maximum cap of 20 per cent stipulated by the Government, but had to be restricted to 20 per cent because of the ceiling. As a result, workers at some ports lost while those at some other ports gained when the maximum ceiling of 20 per cent on PLR was applied uniformly," Mr Bellani said.

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