January 24, 2021

AP: Adani Management Victimises Krishnapatnam Port Workers

Ch Narasinga Rao

THE Krishnapatnam Port Company Limited (KPCL) management has been found to be violating labour laws. This is the second biggest industry in AP after the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. CITU affiliated union had raised voice against this and made a complaint to the labour department. On December 31, 2020, in a joint meeting on our union’s complaint, the principal secretary of labour department of AP, Udaya Lakshmi noted that it is shameful for the state of Andhra Pradesh that labour laws are not implemented in Krishnapatnam Port (KPCL). “KPCL management is worthy enough to be prosecuted for non-implementation of labour laws,” she said during the discussions.

The KPCL management in the same meeting had accepted to implement all the labour laws applicable in KPCL with immediate effect from January 1, 2021 which was also recorded in the minutes of the meeting. But the management had shown its real face and terminated 500 workers on January 6, 2021 without any reason. No notice was given and no enquiry was conducted. The management is resorting to the worst practice of recruiting new workers and removing the very senior workers who are active in the union. This is the real face of the management of the Adani group that runs the Krishnapatnam Private Port in Nellore district of AP.
Port is a strategic industry and most of the workers are doing jobs in core departments. The management of the KPCL is ruling like a jungle raj. It attacked the trade union earlier by illegal transfers, illegal terminations and foisted false criminal cases on the active workers and leaders of the CITU union. The management is violating all labor laws.  It is paying wages for eight hours while making the workers work for 12 hours; it is not paying minimum wages and VDA; there are no holidays including public and festival, sick leave, casual leave, earned leaves; there is non-payment of gratuity to workers. Out of 12,500 total workers 12,000 are working under various contractors and they get paid meagre wages. Out of these 12,000 workers only 4,760 workers are working under registered contractors and covered under PF and ESI. The others are getting cheap wages and are not covered under PF and ESI.  1,200 women sweepers are getting only Rs 170 per day. Most of the contract workers are not issued pay-slips and identity cards. This is the secret behind the Adani group getting maximum profits of upto 700 per cent in a period when the GDP has come down to -24 per cent in our country, by exploiting labour during the pandemic period.

The management of KPCL is running mafia gangs to threaten workers who had tried to form union and question the management on implementation of eight hours working day and on other issues. The management is following ‘de-unionisation’ policy which is against the constitution and the Trade Union Act, 1926. This issue was raised in the joint meeting on December 31, 2020 and the management had agreed to implement all trade union laws with effect from January 1, 2021. It had further agreed   to recognise the Krishnapatnam Port Clearing and Forwarding Workers Union affiliated to the CITU as the only union operating in the KPCL.

Many leaders and workers who had raised the issues of workers were sacked from employment. The workers went on spontaneous strikes many times in all the core departments. Recently on November 22-24, 2020, the crane workers went on strike demanding higher wages as promised by the management. The KPCL management brought new workers and suppressed the strike and got forcible signatures from all workers who went on strike.  The management also filed a criminal case against their leader, Ravi and 79 other workers.  Krishnapatnam Police Station is helping the management by registering all accidental fatal deaths under 174 CrPC as suspicious deaths and has helped in seeing that the dependents of the victims did not get any payment even under the workmen’s compensation.  Most of the workers in the KPCL are working under insecurity of their jobs and lives.

Krishnapatnam port was established in 2008 by the CVR management by acquiring 4,553 acres in Nellore district of AP and constructed a deep-sea port with 13 berths. It is operating with minimum 40 million metric tons per annum and also earned huge profits of Rs 1,800 crores in 2014-15. KPCL signed an MoU with the state of Andhra Pradesh for a 50-year lease and agreed to pay 2.6 per cent of revenue share for the first 30 years under a public private partnership. At the time of land acquisition, the state government of AP and the KPCL management had promised to give one permanent job to each family who had lost their land (there were about 4000 such families). But none of them were given permanent employment, even till date. Non fishermen package has not been implemented so far.

Awareness to fight for their rights began among the workers during the transition of port management to Adani Group due to the consistent efforts of our union.  CITU is continuously struggling since the last six months for getting the labour laws implemented in the KPCL. A month-long dharna was conducted before Nellore district collectorate from October to November 2020. The all-India general strike on November 26, 2020 was successfully observed in KPCL and there was 100 per cent participation of workers in the strike. ‘Karmika Garjana’ rally and meeting was conducted in Nellore town on December 10, 2020 which gave a call to the workers to observe only eight hours duty per day. The logistics workers responded and implemented eight hours duty from December 11 itself. 48 hours dharna was conducted on December 22-23, 2020 in which hundreds of workers participated with enthusiasm. Workers of many departments are preparing to join the union from the first week of 2021. Observing this situation, the management of KPCL suddenly terminated 500 logistics workers on January 6, 2021 to threaten the workers not to join the union. The KPCL management has resorted to unfair labour practice of recruiting new workers with higher wages and terminating senior workers in order to crush the trade union movement in the KPCL.

Protest programmes are going on since January 6, 2021 at the Krishnapatnam Port main gate. Now it is the responsibility of the labour department to enforce the decisions of the meeting held on December 31, 2020 to get the labour laws implemented and get the 500 logistic workers reinstated immediately.  The CITU AP state committee has given a call to observe protest day on January 20, 2021 throughout the state. A big rally was organised in Nellore on the same day. The Water Transport Workers Federation of India (WTWFI) also gave a call to observe demands day on various issues including that of the Krishnapatnam Port, on January 20, throughout the country in all ports.

The general body meeting of Krishnapatnam Port union conducted on January 12, 2021 had decided to continue their struggle until all the 500 workers are reinstated and labour laws are implemented in the KPCL.