Kochi Corporation contractors end strike

Municipal authorities in Kochi can breathe a sigh of relief as its contractors have called off the strike demanding payment of arrears.

The Kochi Corporation Contractors Association previously called an indefinite strike from Monday to demand payment of pending bills. The strike would have crippled development work in the Corporation area, including the repair and rehabilitation of city roads, grit removal, and the repair, maintenance and construction of drains and canals to through the city.

The Kochi Corporation issued checks worth ₹6.75 crore. The civic body’s secretary promised to issue more checks on Monday for work that has been completed. The association has decided to suspend the strike, which was to start on Monday, given the assurances given by the authorities, said MR Binu, president of the association.

It is estimated that every year the civic body would implement works worth around ₹100 crore using its own resources. The body owes its contractors over ₹100 crore for works implemented over the years. There was a three-year delay in payment for the work. Most contractors raise funds for the execution of works through lending and borrowing from private lenders at exorbitant interest rates. The delay in paying bills has forced a large number of entrepreneurs into debt, he said.

Non-payment of bills and the resulting financial crisis forced contractors to boycott new work planned by the civic body. A large number of contractors did not participate in the bidding process for works to be implemented in the current fiscal year, he said.

Although the strike has been suspended for the time being, the association will be forced to boycott the work if the city administration fails to keep its word on payment of bills for work completed by September 2019. The mayor of Kochi had previously assured the association that arrears up to September 2019 would be settled by October 30, 2022, the head of the association said.

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