Bombay high court asks striking MSRTC employees to respond
The Bombay high court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra Rajya Kanishth Vetanshreni ST Karmachari Sanghatana to file a reply in response to the contempt petition filed by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC). The contempt petition was filed after state transport (ST) employees and staff went on strike last week during Diwali.
The contempt petition is also against the breach of the restraining order passed by the HC wherein the union members were told not to go on strike and the refusal of the striking employees and staff to join duty though a committee as sought by the them to hear their grievances was constituted on November 8.
The vacation bench of justice SJ Kathawalla and justice Surendra Tavade, which was hearing the contempt petition filed by the MSRTC against the employee union and 302 individuals, was informed that though court had restrained the employees from going on strike last week they had breached the court order.
MSRTC’s lawyer submitted that at the request of the union and its leader a committee consisting of three high ranking state level officials was constituted to address their demands on November 8. The advocate submitted that though the proposal for the committee was fulfilled on the same day by the state government following a direction of the bench, neither the union nor its leader had withdrawn the strike. In light of this the contempt petition was filed.
On November 8, the bench while hearing the petition of MSRTC seeking directions to the members of the union and its leader to refrain from resorting to a strike had directed the state to constitute a committee forthwith and issue a notification to the effect and conduct a meeting to resolve the issue of the union and its members the same day.
The employees, staff and union of MSRTC had called a strike from midnight of November 3 as their demand for being treated at par with government employees was not fulfilled. The employees had also been agitating for non-payment of their salaries for three months.
Meanwhile, as the MSRTC employees’ strike entered the third day on Wednesday, 542 more employees were suspended on Wednesday taking the number of suspended employees in two days to 918. The employees are on strike for, among other things, a pay hike and be classified as state government employees.
Though the authorities have not confirmed the claim, the employee unions have said that 37 MSRTC workers have died by suicide in the last two years due to financial crises.
“For five years, our demands are the same, but the government is not willing to listen. We will not call off the agitation till our demands are met,” said said Shashank Rao, coordinator, Sangharsh ST Kamgar Union. “The organisation should be merged with the state government and all benefits should be given to the employees.”
The cash-strapped MSRTC, one of the country’s largest transport corporations with 96,000 employees, is struggling to pay salaries for the last two years.
“We do not get salaries on time. There have been times that our family members go to bed without eating anything. We are just asking for our rights and want the state government to just listen to us,” said an MSRTC bus driver posted at the Karjat depot.
“The state government is trying to pressure employees by taking action against them,” said former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday appealed to MSRTC employees to stop their agitation. Thackeray requested them to resume work and stated that the state government is trying their best to provide relief to the employees.