Labour strike hits Kerala house boat industry


Alappuzha (Kerala) : A flash strike by nearly 1,500 Left-backed employees here, demanding higher pay, has left the money-spinning houseboat industry crippled since Saturday.

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The strike was called by the Houseboat and Resort Employees Union, part of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-backed Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), after two rounds of talks with the houseboat owners failed.

Alappuzha, a famous tourist destination in the state, is home to more than 400 houseboats and has an average daily business of Rs.2.5 million during the peak season.

Alappuzha attracts most number of tourists during monsoon season, particularly in the Onam week.

Tomy Pulikattil, owner of a dozen houseboats, told IANS that the owners were prepared for a 30 percent hike in monthly salary and a 20 percent hike in daily allowance for the employees.

“But they wanted a salary hike from Rs.2,500 to Rs.4,000 and a daily allowance increase from Rs.100 to Rs.200. The last time their salaries were hiked was two years back. Their demands are extremely high and we just cannot afford that,” Pulikattil said.

However, the working president of the trade union Aslam told IANS that the employees were ready to scale down their salary demand from Rs.4,000 to Rs.3,500, and a daily allowance to Rs.120.

“One section of the houseboat owners have already agreed our demands. We expect to find a solution when the Alappuzha district collector is meeting both parties tomorrow (Monday),” Aslam added.