It is a common experience that wage revision becomes a bone of contention almost all the time between those who pay the wage and those who receive it. The five recognized unions for the port and dock workers which represent over 60,000 plus workers demand a 60 percent pay-revision; but, the Indian Ports Association appears not ready for pay-revision itself. In a clear language, it told the unions: “Given a chance, the managements of ports are not much inclined to go in for a wage revision unless fundamentals improve”. In a note circulated to the unions, it referred to the global recession as the reason for their stand. Going into details, it said that the share of the major ports in two decades has dropped to about 60 percent from 90 percent. Taking into account the operating income of the major ports and the operating expenditure in the last five years, the operating surplus has declined by 8.02 percent. The Association also said that the expenditure on salary and wages of Class III and IV employees during these years has gone up by 62.83 percent. But Mr.T. Narendra Rao, General Secretary, Water Transport Workers’ Federation of India, refuted this point and said that “The wages were hardly 23-24 percent in five years. His Association is a part of the bipartite Wage Negotiation Committee. Looking at the parameters that directly affect the productivity in the port, he, however, said that the situation at the major ports remains unhealthy. The average turn-around time of the major ports was 4.47 days in 2011-12 as against 3.93 days in 2007-8; again, the average pre-berthing detention has increased to 50.19 hours in 2011-12 as against 37.66 hours in 2007-8; the average for a berth day output has gone up slightly by 10.34 percent due to mechanization. He added: “If you look at all the three parameters, productivity in the port sector has not gone up in any reasonable measure”. The Association, however, said that the mandate given by the Union Government could be followed with practical possibility and a mutually acceptable beneficial wage settlement could be arrived at. In other words, it appears that the Indian Ports Association has not totally negated wage revision but it wants it to be level with the practical reality.
April showers bring May flowers; negotiations fetch timely benefits.