The warring political parties Shiv Sena and MNS appear to have shifted their battleground to a new venue: the airport complex. As the two rival parties compete with childish zeal in the matter of staging strikes, the city’s export-import trade operational from the Mumbai Airport Cargo complex is caught in the crossfire.
Even airport authorities have admitted that more than their allegiance to a cause, the two parties are waging strikes to flex their political muscles, and make an impression on their faithful legions. Without so much as serving a notice to the authorities, 200 loaders of the MNS-led trade union staged a protest at the airport cargo last Wednesday, demanding a hike in daily wages. Not to be outdone, the Shiv Sena led union
Bhartiya Kamgar Sena followed close on their heels, waging a protest for a similar hike yesterday.
A Sena activist offered an explanation for the protest, saying, “The MNS provoked the loaders for no reason, and halted trade for more than four hours. We decided to protest as we have to maintain our standing at the Airport Cargo.” The battle for political dominance has started in February, when both warring unions were found collecting illegal clearance charges from the tempos which entered the airport complex at Sahar (‘Airport cargo caught in clash of the Senas’, MiD DAY, February 15).
Sources inside Mumbai airport confirmed that no notices were served for either protest and the troublesome imbroglio stemmed from the war of supremacy waged by the two parties. The situation has sent alarm bells ringing across members of the export-import trading community — traders are said to be toying with the idea of shifting base, if the circumstances exacerbate.
Firdos Fanibanda, chairman (western region), Air Cargo Association of India (ACAI) said, “It seems that there is an ongoing power struggle between these trade unions, with each wanting to display its political strength. As a result, the traders who import and export goods with the help of the Mumbai airport cargo are suffering. The situation is rather alarming — I can only say that if this continues, the traders will have to shift
their base to another city. We are also seeking the intervention of top aviation bodies.”
Ashish Pednekar, president of the Maharastra Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, said, “We traders are suffering for no reason. If someone is to be blamed, it is the custodian, Mumbai International Airport Private Limited (MIAL), who did not negotiate properly with the unions. They only enter into debate when they are held ransom.” MNS leader Nitin Sardesai, said, “We raised our voice for workers and were successful in wresting a hike for them. Now the Sena is waging a similar protest, but I think they are too late.” Avinash Borate, secretary, Bhartiya Kamgar Sena, Mumbai airport division, said, “We are the registered union with the Mumbai airport. The MNS-led union is not registered, so the protest staged by them since Wednesday is illegal.”
Mumbai airport cargo handles more than 600 tonnes of import and 500 tonnes of export worth Rs 200-300 crore every day. On both occasions, the two political parties halted the operations for more than four hours, affecting 40 per cent of the total daily trade.