India Port Strike Threatened

Indian dockworker union leaders and officials from the Ministry of Shipping are expected to hold talks on Wednesday in New Delhi in an attempt to avert an indefinite industrial action planned to begin March 9 at major ports, including Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, the nation’s largest container handler.

The Journal of Commerce has reported that unions are protesting a reform of state-owned ports pushed by the new federal government, a step that the workers fear would ultimately lead to total privatization and in turn, a loss of jobs and benefits for them.

The five major federations of the 12 major ports of the country, which had called for the strike, are: All India Port & Dock Workers’ Federation; All India Port & Dock Workers’ Federation; Port, Water Transport Workers’ Federation of India; Dock and Waterfront Workers’ Federation; and Indian National Port & Dock Workers’ Federation.

On Feb. 20, the labor groups served notice of a nationwide shutdown plan to the respective port authorities and following the budget announcement various union leaders have vowed to thwart any attempts to privatize the publicly owned ports.

The Indian federal government pledged to go ahead with its plans to make major ports independent companies instead of government-controlled landlord ports despite fierce opposition from the highly unionized labor force.  The government is seeking privatization at major ports due to the lack of funds for the much-needed capacity expansion and infrastructure modernization.

A shipping line agent in Mumbai said though port authorities have promised to make adequate alternate arrangements for terminal and cargo-handling operations, many critical port services are likely to be affected in the event of a work stoppage

RCL Agencies will continue to monitor the situation and report further updates once available