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American Shipper

India port strike delayed

India port strike delayed

   Indian dockworkers have delayed a plan to strike indefinitely over wage increases, India’s Exim News Service reported Wednesday.

   In February, longshoremen represented by five different union federations nationwide had threatened an indefinite strike starting from March 10 over what they considered an inadequate pay raise from the government, which had offered an 18.5 percent wage increase over 10 years. The dockworkers unions, which represent more than 60,000 longshoremen, were seeking an increase of 35 percent over five years.

   The report Wednesday said that India Shipping Minister A.P.V.N Sarma had negotiated a compromise between the labor unions and the Indian Ports Association, which represents port management at the country’s major state-owned ports, allowing the wage increase to occur over five years retroactive from Jan. 1, 2007. While that seems to be a win for the labor unions, it’s unclear whether their demands over the increase amount will be met.

   Union leaders said the option to strike was not taken off the table, but that the strike would be delayed in order to promote a “cordial” negotiating environment.

   In other Indian port news, Exim News Service also reported that the Indian government is looking to fast track a program that would place gamma ray monitors at all state-run ports, allowing terminal operators to screen for potentially dangerous arriving cargo.

   No such systems exist outside of the Jawaharlal Nehru-Nhava Sheva port complex. Intelligence agencies have actually been seeking to install such systems in Indian ports since 2004, but bids have been consistently rejected due to a failure to agree on which technology should be used. But with maritime security fears heightened since the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the program seems to have new life.

   The government will on March 16 start accepting bids for companies to provide at least seven such scanners at ports throughout the country. In October 2006 $35 million was set aside for such a system.

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