06 Jul 2015 12:36 IST

Kochi port labour upset over move to discourage food grain consignments in bulk vessels

Prominent trade union has questioned ethics, economic logic of move

Kochi Port’s move to discourage food grain consignments in bulk vessels seems to have raised an alarm among the labour fraternity, fearing for their survival in the port area.

A prominent trade union has questioned the ethics and economic logic of displacing port labour from handling food grains arriving in bulk carriers and also the move to promote alternate methods like receiving food grains in containers.

“If Kochi Port denies access to such bulk vessels, the port will be abandoning its statutory responsibility to act as a facilitator of trade. Importers would then be driven away to ports elsewhere. As long as dry bulk freight rates remain low, importers are unlikely to bring food grains in containers,” K.V.A. Iyer, Vice-President, Cochin Port Labour Union, told BusinessLine.

As a facilitator of the trade, the port management could not be justified for its decision to discourage receipt of bulk ships. As a statutory authority, it is unjust to deny labour the right to livelihood through work, he said.

The move of the port to promote bulk arrival of food grains in containers and setting up most modern methods for cargo evacuation comes in the wake of a shortage of sufficient labour while handling the recently arrived imported wheat consignment from Australia in the wharf.

P.M.Mohammed Haneef, Working President of Cochin Port Staff Association, cautioned the port management to take workers into confidence before going ahead with any mechanisation drive for cargo evacuation.

Imported food grains are currently carried out in the conventional manner using traditional labour intensive handling techniques. Given the situation, he said the management should not deny job opportunities to workers and there should be a consensus with trade unions before setting up automated facilities in the port area.