Road transport employees call off bus strike

Leader of the employees, Kodihalli Chandrashekar made the announcement at Freedom Park after receiving a written assurance from the State government about fulfilling their nine out of ten demands.

After a day-long high drama on Monday, employees of road transport corporations (RTCs) called off their strike that began on Friday, bringing relief to lakhs of people who were put to great hardships owing to non-availability of buses.

Farmers’ leader Kodihalli Chandrashekar, who was leading the employees, made the announcement at Freedom Park here after receiving a written assurance from the State government on fulfilling nine out of ten demands. The government had approved these demands on Sunday after a series of meetings, but on Monday, protesters demanded a written assurance from the Deputy Chief Minister and Transport Minister Laxman Savadi.

On behalf of the government, BMTC chairman N. S. Nandiesha Reddy handed over the written assurance to the employees. A section of the protesters demanded that the strike be continued till their demand that they be considered as government employees was conceded; and many also sought clarity on implementing the pay scale recommended by the sixth pay commission.

Following Mr. Chandrashekar’s discussion with the Transport Minister, he later announced calling off the strike “convinced” by the Minister’s response. “The strike has been called off after the State government agreed to meet nine out of ten demands made by the employees,” he said.

Mr. Chandrashekar also said that the government had been given a three-month deadline to implement the promises made.

The Transport Minister, on Sunday, had categorically said that it was impossible to consider them as government employees as there were other boards and corporations in the State and they may also come up with similar demands. Among the major demands approved by the government are: providing compensation of ₹30 lakh to families of employees who died after contracting COVID-19, reducing probationary period of trainees from two years to one year, administrative reforms to address complaints of employees on harassment, providing allowances to drivers and conductors withheld because of COVID-19.

But not all employees were happy. “The very purpose of the strike was to demand that we be considered as government employees and that has been totally dismissed. There is also no clarity on how the sixth pay commission will get implemented. Earlier, once in four years, through agreements, pay revisions used to happen. I don’t know what we have gained from this strike. The major benefit is for families of employees who died of COVID-19 who will get compensation,” said an employee.

Drivers also raised objections over repeated changes in the stand taken by leaders on demands. Some employees said calling off the strike was needed as non-availability caused hardship to the general public across the State.

Mr. Chandrashekar also came under attack on Monday, with Revenue Minister R. Ashok calling him a “villain” who was “misleading employees”.

Loss due to strike

Owing to the strike, the cash-strapped RTCs suffered a loss of over ₹459 crore. KSRTC lost over ₹21 crore and BMTC ₹9 crore. During the protests, miscreants also damaged windshields and side mirrors of 64 buses by pelting stones.

“Compared to previous days, we managed to operate some of the buses before the announcement was made on calling off the strike. After 5 p.m., bus services resumed across the city. KSRTC too operated intra-State and inter-State services. Buses will be operated as scheduled from Tuesday onwards,” said a transport corporation official.

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