Port equipment operator sacks 348 employees

Port equipment operator Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT), which has started winding up its operations from West Bengal, retrenched its total workforce of 348 employees Saturday.

HBT, which was operating at mechanised berths two and eight at the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) and handled five million tonnes of cargo per year, announced Wednesday that it would quit the state over "poor law and order" and "safety" concerns of its employees.

"As a consequence of Kolkata port's repeated breaches of the contract and its failure to ensure a safe and conducive work environment, HBT was constrained to inform the port on Oct 31 of its decision to immediately terminate its contract for operation in HDC.

"In view of the aforesaid, HBT is left with no option but to retrench its 348 employees with effect from today," Gurpreet Malhi, CEO, Haldia Bulk Terminals Private Limited said in a media statement here.

The company had in September retrenched 275 employees.Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) Chairman Manish Jain, who had dubbed "false, obnoxious and unacceptable" HBT's allegation of poor law and order situation at Haldia, Saturday stepped up offensive against the private cargo handler.

"They want to run away by creating a hype so that they can escape paying penalties," Jain told a media conference.

"HBT committed breach of contract on more than one occasion and we overlooked them. It refused on-loading of (outbound) cargo...The company also changed its shareholding pattern between tendering process (2008) and award of contract (2010)," he added.

HBT is a joint venture of ABG Infralogistics and French Louis Dreyfus Armateurs.

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