The Haldia port crisis worsened on Wednesday, with ABG Haldia Bulk Terminals (AHBT) continuing the suspension of operations at two berths and terminating 450 contractual workers within a few hours of sacking 275 others on their payroll.
Berths number two and eight generate the maximum revenue at Haldia, and these berths have been leased out to AHBT, a joint venture between ABG Infralogistics and French firm Louis Dreyfus Armateurs (LDA). AHBT suspended operations on Tuesday, blaming the deteriorating law and order situation at the dock, after being prevented from unloading two foreign ships.
With AHBT sacking 275 employees and terminating a sub-contractor under whom 450 others would work, the labour unrest took a turn for the worse.
However, KoPT authorities said they wouldn’t intervene. “Whatever is happening is a completely internal matter. The KoPT authority has nothing to do with it. We will assist them as per the agreement and their service will be evaluated on their basis of the agreement,” said Manish Jain, acting chairman of KoPT.
AHBT sources claimed that the contract with the sub-contractor group was terminated on the basis of non-performance after the firm received a complaint from the KoPT authorities on inefficiencies in cargo unload at berths 2 and 8.
Sheikh Majaffar, proprietor of Five Star Logistics, the subcontractor firm has threatened to sue AHBT for terminating their contract illegally.
“AHBT owes us more than R7 crore. We sent them a letter on September 20, asking for the overdue payments, and they terminated our contract on September 22,” said Majaffar. Meanwhile, KoPT authorities hit back at the pro-AHBT lobby at Haldia docks on Wednesday by transferring Rama Kant Burman, junior assistant manager (Administration). Burman, also the secretary of Haldia Dock Officers’ Forum, had issued a leaflet alleging that AHBT’s presence was financially crucial for the dock.
“A report has been received from the district intelligence branch, East Midnapore, stating that SriRama Kanta Burman was taking advantage of the situation and instigating workers at Haldia for personal gains,” reads the transfer letter.
“His presence at Haldia is not considered conducive for solving the present crisis,” added the letter, asking him to join the hydraulic study department at Kolkata port immediately .
In August, AHBT threatened to suspend work at Haldia from September 8, if KoPT didn’t commit to the allocation of 9 million tons of cargo a month. Following court intervention, the AHBT and KoPT agreed to ‘the optimum utilisation of the 2 berths’ on September 12.