Cargo worth about Rs250 crore is stuck at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, with nearly 700 workers refusing to work since Friday, citing poor work conditions.
Led by Vijay Chitre of the Shiv Sena-affiliated Bhartiya Kamgar Sena, the workers claim that lack of adequate infrastructure at the cargo section, which has been compounded by a new Customs notification, was making them slog for long hours and leaving them stressed.
"Seven people have lost their lives in past 3-4 months due to stress. We have brought it to the attention of airport operators, Customs, and others. However, all our pleas have fallen on deaf ears," said Chitre.
Under the new notification by Customs department, the prescribed load for manual lifting of cargo has been increased to 350 kg as against the earlier figure of 150 kg.
The protesters say manual handling of the additional load from the main entrance is eating up a lot of time. "It is not only inhuman but also violates international laws. Our demand is that cargos over 150 kg should be mechanically lifted from Gate no 4, which will also take very less time, as was done earlier," said a worker.
Commissioner of Customs (export) was not available for comments.
CSIA which handles about 6 lakh metric tonnes of cargo every year and is the most important air cargo centre in the country, with various goods and machineries exported to countries across the world.
Firms that have been facing the brunt of the agitation, however, however, blame the Sena-affiliated workers' union. "Such strikes cause immense damage to trade and economy," said a member of export cargo agents' association.
A source from Mumbai International Airport Limited agreed that operations had been severely affected due to the unrest. He also added that all the demands, with respect to facilities, of the workers were been met on Saturday.
Sources said that MIAL wants waiver on the new notification till infrastructure work at the cargo division is complete as it is not only causing stress to the workers but also resulting in slow movement of export cargos, affecting their revenue.