In a major relief to 30 lakh bus commuters and 10 lakh power consumers in the city, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking workers have decided to postpone their three-day agitation to November 3.
BEST workers had threatened to go on strike from October 26 to 28 because they want a Diwali bonus.
However, the BEST employee’s action committee, formed by retired employees to negotiate the issue, met general manager Jagdish Patil on Monday. During the meeting, Patil asked for a week’s time to discuss the critical financial condition of BEST with authorities concerned.
Following the discussion with the chief secretary, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief and BEST chairman, the decision on the bonus will be taken on November 3.
The undertaking has suffered an accumulated loss of Rs2,400crore. A bonus of Rs5,000 to each of the 45,000 BEST employees could mean burden of around Rs25crore on BEST, which will eventually be passed on to power consumers or commuters in the form of a tariff hike.
“We have stated all financial facts to the action committee and appealed to them not to agitate. Considering the loans and losses giving any bonus to workers looks difficult. However, a decision will be taken on November 3 at the BEST committee meeting,” said Jagdish Patil, general manager, BEST.
At the meeting held with workers, the BEST employees’ action committee formed by retired staffers announced they were expecting a bonus proposal at the BEST committee meeting to be held on November 3, 2015. If the bonus is not announced at the November 3 meeting the agitation may be announced.
“BEST general manager Jagdish Patil has assured he will discuss the issue with authorities concerned and bring up the proposal of bonus in the next BEST committee meeting. Until then, we have postponed the agitation,” said Prakash Walke, retired BEST employee and conveyor of BEST employees’ action committee.
The state government has invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services and Maintenance (MESMA) Act 2011, under which workers found agitating and obstructing essential services could even be jailed. The BEST administration has made provisions for alternative workforce and requested for police protection to those staffers who do not wish to join the strike.