Thiruvananthapuram: The ongoing dispute between trade unions and transporting contractors of oil companies over loading/unloading charges even after seven rounds of conciliatory talks, which has badly hit LPG supplies in the capital city and around for the past two weeks, is unlikely to get an immediate solution. Transport contractors have approached the court on the issue, thereby giving a new dimension to the stalemate. As floor stocks with Indane and HP LPG dealers in the city dried up within a week since the launch of the strike on July 26, the scarcity has become acute now. As many as 45 truck loads of LPG are needed every day to address the domestic fuel needs of the city.
The root cause of the issue is that the agreement between the transport contractors and the headload workers, which had lapsed in 2008, has not been renewed till date. The striking headload workers have demanded higher wages from the existing Rs 830 per truck for loading and unloading. A truck load of domestic LPG cylinders will have 306 cylinders. Headload workers, owing allegiance to CITU, INTUC, AITUC and BMS, had resorted to an indefinite strike from July 27. Prior to that, the conciliatory meeting convened by the District Labour Officer was boycotted by the transport contractors, who are contractually obliged to settle all such disputes.
While the conciliatory meeting convened on July 26 by the state Labour Commissioner was boycotted by transport contractors, another meeting held after two days to end the stalemate too ended in failure. So did the meet held three days ago. The Labour Commissioner had issued a directive to pay at least the statutory levy of 27 per cent for the wages as per the Kerala Headload Workers Act.
Transport contractors have approached the court on the issue, thereby giving a new dimension to the stalemate.
It is pointed out that there is no dearth of relevant clauses which stand in the way of resolving the deadlock. The tender conditions of the transporter are mentioned in the credential bid. But the lack of an assertiveness by the management to implement them is dragging the issue. As there is no onus on the transporter to come out with a solution, the consumers are left in the lurch. The Government too has not sensed the gravity of the issue, either.
Meanwhile, Shashi Tharoor MP has brought the severe shortage felt in LPG supplies in the capital city to the attention of Union Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas Jaipal Reddy. He met the Union Minister in New Delhi the other day and demanded urgent measures to resolve the issue. The Minister promised effective and immediate action. Tharoor also spoke to A Pandian, Indian Oil General Manager-in-charge for Kerala, and stressed the need to take quick action to resolve the crisis.