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Biennale Foundation reaches agreement with trade unions

Biennale Foundation reaches agreement with trade unions

Kochi: Ahead of the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), an agreement has been inked between the Kochi Biennale Foundation and unions representing head load workers in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry where most of the 12 Biennale venues are located.

The art extravaganza will open on December 12 and run for 108 days till March 29, next year.

The agreement, which outlines each party's responsibilities and standardises remuneration, entails an across-the-board 30 per cent reduction in the rates for unloading and installing artworks in relation to the KMB in 2014, organisers said here today.

This makes the charges for KMB 2016 comparable to the going rates for handling handicrafts, they said.

The move to fix rates came after discussions were held between the Foundation, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), among other organisations, to preempt labour issues as had arisen at previous Biennale editions.

With containers of installations and artworks streaming into the venues, a small army of about 100 head load workers have rolled up their sleeves to ensure India's only Biennale gets underway without a hitch.

"The Biennale being a prestige event, we consider it our duty to support it. Our usual timings are from 9 am to 6 pm, but as many of the works arrive in the wee hours, we stay back to unload them," said B Hamza, from CITU, adding that the union would extend all necessary local support to KMB 2016.

Besides fixing an overtime allowance of 20 per cent from the base rate for any after-hours work, the agreement standardises rates with respect to the type of vehicle bringing the works and materials to the venue with the highest slabs reserved for container transports and the lowest for three-wheeler cargo vehicles.

"Usually, our work ends with unloading the materials at the spot, but for Biennale we also help move and arrange the artworks according to the artists' wish. We do this since we recognise that with the inception of the Biennale, Kochi has been elevated to a new level," said A M Ayub, from INTUC.

"The rate slabs in Mattanchery are different from Fort Kochi as the workers fall under Kerala Head load Workers Welfare Board. However, these rates have now been made universal for KMB 2016. The workers are all cooperating for this important event," said a senior official with the Labour Department, which had been involved in formulating the agreement.

Noting that the Foundation was deeply appreciative of the workers' efforts and commitment, KMB Director of Programmes Riyas Komu said, "This vital agreement made in the spirit of co-operation goes to show just how important the Kochi-Muziris Biennale has become to the city and its people.

It is truly a 'people's Biennale' in every sense.

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