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India: Splinter group from seamen’s union joins hands with Sena

Splinter group from seamen’s union joins hands with Sena
Muskan Khator August 26, 2019

Group headed by union leader expelled for corruption

A faction of the Forward Seamen’s Union of India (FSUI), one of the largest trade unions in the shipping industry, on Sunday joined hands with the Shiv Sena.

The group’s leader, Naresh Birwadkar, was removed from the union in 2012 due to many corruption allegations against him — including siphoning of gratuity and welfare of more than 1,000 seafarers to his private trust — and had even faced a CBI probe.

On Sunday, Mr. Birwadkar shared stage with Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray and Union Heavy Industries Minister Arvind Sawant at KC College in south Mumbai.

Akshay Birwadkar, FSUI secretary, said, “We have been associated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) since 1970. But, in the last seven years, a lot of our agitations and struggles were not given proper emphasis. We have passed a resolution in our AGM to disassociate with CITU and join hands with the Shiv Sena. We needed strong leadership that could represent workers’ issues,” he said, while explaining their principal agenda of minimum wages and pension schemes for seafarers, and their protests against the Shipping Corporation of India.

Mr. Naresh Birwadkar, who claimed that he is still the general secretary of FSUI, termed it a historic day for the union. “The Shiv Sena has represented workers’ issues in Parliament even without association,” he said.

Mr. Sawant, too, addressed the seafarers at the meeting. “We fought on sailors’ issues in Parliament even before FSUI was associated with Shiv Sena and we will strive to take it forward,” he said.

Mr. Thackeray said, “We will make sure all the issues of the sailors are resolved as per the norms of the International Labor Organization.”

Meanwhile, Manoj Yadav, general secretary of FSUI, slammed the Birwadkars, calling the meeting illegal. “FSUI is affiliated with CITU and Water Transport Workers Federation of India, which is registered at Kolkata. Naresh Birwadkar is holding a conference which is illegal and had an injunction over it by Alipore court in Kolkata,” he said.

Mr. Yadav said a corruption case against Mr. Birwadkar is pending in court, and the CBI is investigating it. He said Mr. Birwadkar has not only misled Mr. Thackeray by bringing in workers who are not seafarers, but is trying to save himself from the probe by joining hands with the ruling party.