Even as Lok Sabha elections are round the corner, the workforce at two major Central government PSUs, struggling for existence, are on a warpath. With no effective political intervention, the Forum of trade unions at the Cochin Port Trust and the Fertlisers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd (FACT) have been on agitation mode, demanding a permanent solution for the issues plaguing the organisations.
Leaders of the The Save FACT Action Committee, a joint council of trade unions at the fertiliser company, launched an agitation demanding LNG for FACT at reasonable rate, while Joint Forum of Trade Unions at the Cochin Port is looking for financial assistance to keep the port afloat.
Though the strike by the employees of the both the organisations has completed three weeks, the approach of the Union Government has not been favourable. “After we launched the strike, we only got an assurance from the Chief Minister that he would look into the issue. We hardly got 10 minutes to interact the Chief Minister at the airport,” said George Thomas, an employee of FACT and activist of the Action Committee.
Meanwhile, K P Dhanapalan MP has submitted a memorandum signed by the MPs to the Prime Minister.
“Private and public sector industries in fertilisers, chemical, petrochemical and power sectors in other states get domestic natural gas at a rate of USD 4.2. They are also provided imported LNG at a rate of USD 6.75 to 9.06 (for long-term contract) and USD 14 for spot LNG. When it comes to Kerala the price of LNG escalate to an average price of USD 19 to 24, which is comparatively higher,” they point out. Union Ministers and MPs from Kerala should intervene in the issue immediately,” Union leaders said.
Anticipating supply of LNG at a fair price from Petronet LNG Ltd(PLL) terminal at Vypeen, the FACT had converted its plants to LNG fuel, by spending around `60 crore. The fertiliser company was earlier using Naphtha as the fuel.
The major demands raised by the Joint Forum of Trade union at Cochin Port include permanent solution to the dredging expense and writing off the loan availed by the Port Trust. A loan of `258 crore taken by the Cochin Port from the Union Government at the time of its development has now grown to a liability of `1,253 crore, including interest. The government should write off at least the interest,” the trade union leaders said.
C D Nandakumar, general convener of the Joint Trade Union Forum, said there has not been any positive response on the part of the Central Government. “We approached Union Ministers from Kerala, including Defence Minister A K Antony and K V Thomas, Shipping Minister, and even the Prime Minister. We convinced them about the fact that the port was sinking but nothing positive has emerged,” he said.
“It may be recalled that Cochin Port Trust had a business transaction worth `1 lakh crore last year. The port is spending an additional `100 crore only to maintain the international container Transshipment Terminal which does not give the port returns proportional to it,” Nandakumar said.
He said that they were going to intensify the agitation. We have decided to step into the next phase of our agitation - hunger strike for an indefinite period.