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New threat of labor stoppage looms at India’s major ports

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Already struggling to mark growth, the Indian major public ports now are exposed to a new threat of labour stoppages after the government cleared new legislation reforming management systems.

To consult on the new Major Port Authorities Act and press on various demands, the trade unions representing dockworkers have decided to stage an indefinite nationwide strike on or after 15 December.

“Immediate action may be taken to discuss the rules of the act with the recognised (labour) federations as assured by the management,”

a consortium of labour groups said in a notice to port authorities.

Unions are also seeking wage contract negotiations

Replacing the provisions enacted in 1963, the new port law intends to transform landlord ports into independent companies with greater functional autonomy, and position them in “a freer, deregulated operating environment to better compete with privately run minor ports”.

Worried that the new law may result in job losses and privatisation of port activities, the Labour unions calling the law anti-port and anti-labour demand the withdrawal of government’s decision.

Out of the 12 major government-controlled ports, Ennore (now renamed Kamarajar), near Chennai, had already been corporatised.

And Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (Nhava Sheva) commands a significant portion of Indian containerised traffic and is in the middle of a further 2.4m teu capacity expansion under a two-phase concession awarded to PSA International.

From a broader trade perspective, the planned strike action comes as shippers are scrambling to find vessel capacity to take advantage of the resurgent market environment.  So, any supply chain disruptions could add to their difficulties and slow port volume growth.

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