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Various trade unions reportedly protested, demanding nokkukooli. The state government banned the practice of nokkukooli from May Day.

Demand for gawking wages halts construction work at Cochin Cancer Research CentreImage for representation.
news Protests Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 09:21

Construction at the Cochin Cancer Research Centre (CCRC) has been come to a halt for almost ten days, following protests by various trade unions for nokkukooli or ‘gawking wage.’

Nokkukooli is a practice where head load workers demand payment for merely watching the goods get loaded or unloaded, while industrialists or merchants or common householders use their own labour for the work. If the head load workers step in to unload/load the goods, the investors will have to pay through their nose for the service. This practice was banned by the state government since May Day.

After various labour force agencies and police personnel were not able to sort out the issue, the construction company moved the court, who then ordered the police to maintain law and order. The company has continued work following the verdict by the court. However, it has been reported that there is a shortage of workers after migrant workers were scared off by local trade unions.

“The piling works have been started. Still, the progress of the work had been hit due to the intervention of trade unions. The migrant workers deployed by the contractor were scared away by the local trade unionists. Now, there is a dearth of labourers,” a CCRC official told the Times of India.

Earlier, work could not be started even after the district collector (who is also the special officer of the CCRC) directed Kochi city’s district police chief to provide protection until the project was complete, reported Deccan Chronicle. The collector’s letter stated that several hurdles were being faced because of union labourers who stopped work during the day asking for nokkukooli for materials which were unloaded using machinery.

The disagreements reportedly started with local trade union leaders demanding that 80% of the workers be sourced from their unions. However, the contractor apparently did not agree, citing that migrant workers were more experienced and reliable to complete the task.

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