The ruling Shiv Sena-BJP alliance is likely to clash with each other again. This time, for control over employees in one of the city’s oldest establishments — Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST).
The BJP has set up BJP BEST Kamagar Sangh, which is seen as a threat to the Shiv Sena-affiliated union BEST Kamagar Sena, which has a sizeable following.
Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar, who has not let go of a single opportunity to take a dig at the Sena in the recent past, is among the union’s chief advisors, while advocate Prashant Sane, who has unearthed several scams in the undertaking, is its legal advisor. Led by Shivajirao Patil, who is active in the labour union for the past five-seven years, the BJP union started its membership drive last week. The union has put up posters at every depot and has been circulating handouts among BEST workers, much to the Sena union’s chagrin.
BEST’s transport wing has more than 35,000 workers. The Sena-affiliated BEST Kamgar Sena is the second-largest union after the BEST Workers’ Union, which was formed by former defence minister George Fernandes and headed by Sharad Rao. While BEST Workers’ Union has its loyal members, the Sena and BJP-affiliated unions are trying to win over the rest.
The union has assured it will take up long-pending issues such as the Canada schedule (computerised duty planner), bonus and ex-gratia amount, newly created junior and senior grades and differences in pay scale. “The duty planner is being implemented against the worker’s will and it is also proving to be a financial burden. So we will take up it first,” said Deepak Sawant, an office-bearer of the union. Sources in other unions, however, said the BJP union won’t be able to negotiate with the administration as per the Bombay Industrial Regulation) Act because the BEST Worker’s Union is the only recognised labour union in the establishment’s traffic wing.
A BEST committee member said the BJP union will not able to make any difference as the undertaking’s financial situation is very poor.