Unrealistic demands from port trust employees over a revamp in the wage and salary structure and a salary hike seem to have left the finance ministry stumped. The shipping ministry has floated a proposal with the expenditure department asking it to permit a revision in the salaries of employees of all twelve major ports amounting to a total of Rs 1,900 crore. All 11 major ports put together employ about 60,000 people. Sources in the finance ministry say the demand is unreasonably high.
But what has actually left officials confused are some of the recommendations of a committee set up to revise the scales. The committee,created within the shipping ministry,has suggested that while salaries should be linked to the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) guidelines for PSUs,perks should not. The demand is that perks should continue as they are. According to the DPE guidelines,perks can be equivalent to only 50 per cent of the basic. If DPE guidelines are followed almost half of the perks would go towards contributions to pension which port trust employees do not want, a senior government official said. Even though some sections within the shipping ministry have opposed the move on grounds that it needs to be negotiated better with port trusts,the proposal was still finalised and sent to the expendituredepartment.
Another recommendation that moves away from the ten-year pay revision system followed by the government is that pay scales of port trusts should be revised once in five years. It is like asking for best of both the worlds, the official said. Moreover,some port trusts do not even have the capacity to dole out the additional money as they are constantly borrowing from the Centre for their operations,the official added. Cochin and Kolkata do not have much surplus funds and may notbe able to foot the bill without taking a loan. In fact,Cochin has already asked JNPT for Rs 100 crore loan.
Another suggestion that has come up during the process is that the major ports should not longer be divided into category I and II as per the existing practice. Large capacity ports such as Mumbai Port are category I ports as per the government’s classification and employees get better remuneration here. This is,however,not the case with category II ports such as Mangalore and Tuticorin. The suggestion is that only one category should exist so that all port employees get paid at the category I scales, the official added. The shipping ministry has asked for Rs 1,730 crore as part of pay revision for category III and IV employees and another 170 crore for category I and II employees of all major ports.