THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A group of passengers who arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport had a harrowing time on Saturday after a group of headload workers asked them to pay notional charges (nokkukooli) for self-transporting their luggage.
The team, comprising 500 staff of a Hyderabad-based private company, had arrived here to attend an official function at Kovalam. The headload workers, who reportedly introduced themselves as CITU workers, asked them to give Rs 1,500 for each bus. Those who resisted were warned of serious consequences, including damaging the bus. The Valiyathura police who reached the spot allegedly asked the owner of the buses to heed to the workers’ demand to avoid untoward incidents.
Nizam A, proprietor of ANM Travels, said he was asked to pay Rs 1,500 for each bus. A total of ten buses were arranged for transporting the team to Kovalam. ‘’This is not the first incident. Earlier on several occasions I had to face this. The loading workers who get the tip-off from the airport staff about bulk arrivals would threaten the passengers and we will agree to the demand to avoid inconvenience to the guests,’’ he said.
It is learnt that the District Labour Officer has submitted a report to the government confirming the incident on Saturday. The report said that the fleecing is done by producing a voucher in the name of ‘Headload and General Workers Union (CITU)’. A total of 15 workers were involved in the incident, the report said.
The Labour Department will hold a joint meeting of trade unions, officials of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and CISF to resolve the labour issues at the airport, said Labour Commissioner T T Antony.
‘’The date of the meeting will be fixed once we get a letter from the airport director,’’ he said.
Complaints about illegal charging by trade union workers are not new at the airport. Various airlines who are engaged in transporting goods to the airport are often subjected to fleecing by loading workers. Despite several complaints by the AAI, the State Government has done little to resolve the issue.
Airport officials said that trade union workers cannot carry out their activities within the airport compound. ‘’However, law and order matters on the airport premises is the responsibility of the state police,’’ they said.
Meanwhile, the travel and tour agents have expressed concern over the incident. ‘’We fear such incidents will affect tourist arrivals and bring a bad reputation for the state,’’ a spokesperson of Kerala Association of Travel Agents said.