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Mumbai commuters face trouble as BEST strike enters second day

Despite the Shiv Sena affiliated union withdrawing its support from the strike on Tuesday night and announcing the operation of 500 BEST buses, the turnout of the staff was poor.

mumbai Updated: Jan 09, 2019 16:18 IST
Aroosa Ahmed
Aroosa Ahmed
Mumbai
Mumbai: People stand in queue to catch private bus as BEST employees went on a Strike outside Bandra station in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.  (Photo by Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times)
Mumbai: People stand in queue to catch private bus as BEST employees went on a Strike outside Bandra station in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, January 9, 2019.  (Photo by Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times)(HT Photo)
         

Commuters in Mumbai faced a second day of travel chaos on Wednesday as Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) workers continued their strike to demand better pay and benefits among other things after talks between the management and the protesting staff failed.

Despite the Shiv Sena affiliated union withdrawing its support from the strike on Tuesday night and announcing the operation of 500 BEST buses, the turnout of the staff was poor.

Lakhs of commuters complained of waiting in queues as the most buses of the city’s second-largest mass transport system stayed off the roads.

“I had to wait for 30 minutes to get an auto rickshaw to travel from Andheri Metro station to my office. There was a crowd and no proper steps are being taken by the government,” said Bhakti Lokhande, a Sakinaka resident.

Passengers also took on Twitter to complain about the non-availability of buses.

“Today in Mumbai BEST is on strike which means no buses. Bus which carried at least 60 people in one trip....so approx half of the peoples will use their own vehicle, means high level of pollution (sic),” tweeted @tanmaydeo7.

Among the demands of the employees, led by BEST Sankyut Kamgar Kriti Samiti (BSKKS) or Joint Action Committee of Labour Unions, is higher grade pay for those recruited from 2007.

They also want compassionate appointments to resume, and discussions on a new wage agreement that was to come into effect from April 2016. They have also demanded bonuses on par with BMC staffers.

Merging the budget of the loss-making BEST with the civic body’s budget is another demand. This, said labour union leaders, would end the financial woes of BEST and ensure staffers get salaries on time. The unions are also strongly against the management’s decision to get new buses on a lease.

BEST officials said that at 8am on Wednesday out of the 2,477 buses that were scheduled to ply, only nine buses operated. And 11 out of 2,958 drivers and 12 out of 3,184 conductors reported for work.

The Central and Western railways announced they will run additional services to facilitate passengers during the strike. The Western Railway will operate 12 additional local train services between Churchgate-Borivali, Churchgate-Andheri and Churchgate-Goregaon.

The Central Railway will operate four additional local train services between Thane- Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), CSMT-Kalyan, Vashi-CSMT and CSMT- Panvel.

The government did not intervene on Tuesday to end the strike. Instead, state transport minister Diwakar Raote seemed to pass the onus to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

“The BEST undertaking is governed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which comes under the state urban development department that is headed by the chief minister. It is up to them to take a call,” Raote said.

Shashank Rao, leader of the BEST Workers’ union, the biggest union of the workers said nothing came of the talks with the management, despite repeated meetings.

BEST is the second largest mass transport system in Mumbai after the suburban trains and ferry 25 lakh commuters every day.

First Published: Jan 09, 2019 11:16 IST

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