Madras HC directs transport workers to call off strike or face action; unions refuse to budge
The striking unions say the high court’s order is against “all principles of natural justice.”Updated: Jan 05, 2018 20:24 IST
Tamil Nadu transport unions on Friday said their strike would continue, defying a Madras high court order that directed them to call off their flash agitation forthwith or face action.
Stating that they would appeal against the court order, members of the unions claimed they were not given a chance to represent their case and hence it (the order) was against “all principles of natural justice.”
A high court bench comprising Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose in the interim order said the non-compliance of the order could lead to contempt proceedings and also termination from service.
The court issued the order on a PIL filed by a freelance journalist Varaaki who had pleaded that the strike be declared illegal and the bus services as essential services.
The strike by transport workers unions paralysed the bus services across the state, including capital city Chennai where over 70% of the buses stayed off the roads. In many districts nearly 90-95 % of the state-run and corporation run buses were grounded, leaving daily commuters and long-distance travellers stranded.
The workers called the strike on Thursday night after their talks with the government on wage revision and clearance of pending dues failed.
The court said the essential services cannot be paralysed and directed the government to take strict action. It said it’s the duty of the government to ensure and protect the rights of its citizens during such circumstances like a flash strike by workers without giving any advance notice.
“I cannot comment on media reports. We are waiting for the court order. And even if there is an order, it is against all principles of natural justice as we were not given a chance to represent our case,” said president Tamil Nadu State Transport Employees Federation A Soundarrajan
The strike will continue, he said, adding that “once we get the order, we would approach the high court pleading that our views be heard. How can a one-sided order be issued without giving a chance to the workers to explain their stance.”
Soundararajan blamed the government for the workers plight and alleged that the government had diverted for business operations Rs 7000 crore funds meant for the arrears of the employees along with retirement benefits and provident fund.
He said workers were also not getting retirement benefits for the past two years.
The agitating unions have been demanding a 2.57% hike in wages. Transport minister M R Vijayabhaskar said the government agreed to enhance the wage by 2.44%. A few unions agreed to the deal given by the government. The hike will cost the state government an additional Rs 1000 crore per annum.
The strike crippled normal life across Tamil Nadu on Friday even as the government managed to run a few buses, including some hired on contracts from private operators, with police protection.
There were clashes in few places as road transport corporation employees tried to prevent the buses from plying.
Meanwhile, union affiliated to the ruling AIADMK, Anna Thozhil Sanga Peravai, welcomed the court decision and hoped the rest of the workers would withdraw the strike.
Commuters complained that they were unable to reach their offices on time.
Chief minister Edapaddi Palaniswami held meetings with ministers and officials to end the strike. Opposition leaders, MK Stalin of DMK and Vaiko of the MDMK and superstar Kamal Haasan urged the CM to speak to the striking employees and accept their demands.
“This will be the best Pongal gift to the workers and to the people,” Kamal Haasan said in a tweet.