The industrial court on Friday prohibited the BEST workers’ unions from going on a three-day strike from October 26 over several demands, including Diwali bonuses.
Earlier in the day, the state government invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services Act 2011 (MESMA) to deter the employees of electricity and transport wing of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) from striking work.
Judge MK Mahajan passed the order in the evening against the unions that ‘restrained and prohibited going on the strike, from stopping the work of undertaking and from doing any violent activities causing losses to the property of the BEST undertaking’.
The strike threat adds to the many troubles the undertaking is facing, the biggest being the mounting accumulated losses that stand at Rs2,400 crore.
The MESMA notification issued by the urban development department expressed concerns over the disruption of power supply and bus services if the strike takes place. “The government of Maharashtra is satisfied that in the public interest it is necessary to prohibit the strike in the said essential services provided by the undertaking,” the notification read. All BEST buses were off the streets on April 1-2 this year, inconveniencing commuters as the employees of the transport wing went on strike. Shashank Rao, leader of BEST workers’ union, said they have made four demands – withdrawing the new scheduling system, clearing arrears, granting 20% Diwali bonus and lifting the freeze on dearness allowance (DA).
“We are firm on the decision to go on strike as, including the Diwali bonus, the BEST undertaking has not fulfilled any our demands,” said Rao. While he said he has heard about the industrial court’s order, he has not yet seen it.
The BEST employees’ action committee, formed by retired staffers, has received the support of the existing workers’ unions to carry out the agitation.
The temporary committee was formed to give voice to the demands and may be dissolved after the demands met, so that the existing unions are shielded.
Though the BEST issued statements about invoking the MESMA, general manager Jagdish Patil could not reached a comment.