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15.5 pc productivity-linked reward for port workers

P. Manoj

New Delhi , Dec. 7

ABOUT 73,000 port and dock workers at the 11 Government-owned major ports are set to receive a productivity linked reward (PLR) of 15.5 per cent for 2002-03 and 2003-04 under a compromise formula brokered by the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) in Delhi on Monday to avert a planned workers strike from Wednesday .

The federations had threatened strike seeking continuation of the uniform 20 per cent PLR paid to workers at all the major ports for 2002-03 and 2003-04 till the National Tribunal set up to look into the vexed issue submitted its recommendations.

The Government was paying a flat rate of 20 per cent as PLR to the port and dock workers, as per the settlement reached between the Indian Ports Association (IPA) and the workers federations in 1996.

But, the Shipping Ministry has sought to alter the existing PLR scheme by devising a formula which, when applied, would result in different amounts being paid at different ports depending upon their productivity and profits.

Under the proposed scheme, the PLR would range from 11 per cent to 18 per cent, depending upon the productivity and performance parameters at the ports.

The workers' federations had opposed the Ministry's move to make the PLR port-specific and the matter was referred to National Tribunal for adjudication and award, which is awaited.

Meanwhile, the workers had demanded that the PLR for the last two years be paid at the uniform rate of 20 per cent on the basis of the 1996 settlement and had served a notice to go an indefinite strike from Wednesday or any day thereafter to press their demand.

With both the Government and the workers federations' sticking to their respective stands during the conciliatory meetings held on November 30 and December 6, the CLC suggested a PLR rate of 15.5 per cent, being the average of the two versions to break the dead lock.

The 15.5-per cent PLR to be paid to the workers for the last two years is, however, subject to the final award of the Tribunal, Mr M.L. Bellani, Secretary, All-India Port and Dock Workers' Federation, told Business Line.

Of this 15.5 per cent, the Government has already paid the workers an advance of 8.33 per cent for the two years.

The balance would be paid as additional advance after approval from the IPA Governing body.

The compromise formula suggested by the CLC was acceptable to both the sides.

The Cabinet Secretary, Mr B.K. Chaturvedi, is also understood to have intervened to break the impasse after a meeting with the Shipping Secretary, Mr D.T. Joseph, and the Joint Secretary (Ports), Mr R.K. Jain, on Monday.

However, the compromise proposal requires ratification from the Governing body of the IPA, the umbrella body representing all the major ports, which is meeting in Kandla on December 13 to consider the issue.

Following this, the CLC requested the workers' federations to defer the strike till the IPA Governing body discussed the proposal and was accepted by them.

The CLC has also convened a meeting of the IPA and the workers federations here on December 15 to finalise the settlement.

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