Minister defends capping rates for port workers

Minister defends capping rates for port workers
April 08 09:27 2018

The economic development minister on Saturday defended government intervention to cap rates for cargo clearance after dockworkers demanded higher pay to work night shifts.

Appearing on the state broadcaster Television Maldives, Mohamed Saeed said complaints from businesses were taken into account and stakeholders were consulted before setting the upper limits for cargo clearance fees.

“We talked to companies. The difficulty they face is dockworkers naming fees at whim,” he said. “[Workers would say] ‘we’ll clear a noodles container today for this price and tomorrow for that price.’ These are difficulties caused due to lack of regulating.”

Saeed suggested that controlled fees are beneficial for all parties as they can be assured about consistent prices.

Dockworkers at the Malé port staged a short-lived strike and doubled their fees when a ban on daytime goods delivery came into force on April 1.

The government reacted Wednesday by controlling their rates as the ports authority asked them to renew their registration or face work license cancellations.

The moves came after Saeed threatened to “open up” or take over cargo unloading services as measures to avert market prices increases.

On Thursday, the minister dismissed reports of a strike threatened by lorry and pickup drivers in protest against forced nocturnal working hours.

“Some [opposition] lawmakers who have lost their seats go and beg drivers to increase disobedience. But I’ll say, pickup drivers will not strike. This is fake news,” he told the press.

Cargo clearance at the commercial harbour and delivery within Malé City would become faster after an adjustment period, he added.

While 270 to 290 lorries are normally packed with goods every night, Saeed said 254 vehicles were served Wednesday night.

In his TVM appearance last night, Saeed said 250 containers on average are cleared by 11 pm since the new transport rules were enacted. 

Porters complain that they are forced to work at night after unloading containers during the day.

As the MPL also changed its clearance hours in line with the delivery ban, vehicles now enter the port at 5 pm to start loading general cargo and perishable items. Stacked vehicles are allowed to leave after 6 pm.

While larger companies are authorised to use their own vehicles, most businesses rely on rented vehicles and hired stevedores.

The government says the daytime goods transport ban is necessary to ease traffic congestion in the 2.2-square mile capital island.

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