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Mumbai’s BEST to downsize workforce to cut costs, will scrap 7,200 vacant posts

Between April and August this year, the BEST Undertaking did not have money to even pay the salaries of its employees

mumbai Updated: Dec 01, 2017 15:39 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times
Vacant posts in the BEST for 1,657 conductors and 1,595 drivers will be scrapped. (HT File)

As part of its revival process, the crisis-ridden Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking, which runs the city’s bus service and supplies electricity to the island city, is set to downsize its workforce.

The BEST administration, which is an undertaking of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), plans to scrap 7,200 vacant posts – around 18% of its total workforce.

The downsizing is a cost-cutting measure to help tide over the BEST’s worst financial crisis ever.

Sources said that for the first time in its history, the BEST has planned to downsize its staff strength to reduce overhead costs. The elimination of such large number of vacant posts is seen as one of the major reforms being undertaken to revive the ailing undertaking, which is second-largest mass transport system in Mumbai after the suburban train network. The accumulated losses of BEST are more than Rs1,750 crore.

Between April and August this year, BEST did not have money to even pay salaries of its employees. The BMC asked BEST to adopt reforms if it wants financial aid to tide over the crisis.

READ: BEST solutions to overcome crisis: Link business hubs to Mumbai suburbs, get 800 buses on lease

The list of posts to be scrapped ranges from peons and clerks to heads of departments. The highest number of posts would be abolished from the transport section. It includes 1,657 posts of conductors and 1,595 drivers.

The administration hopes the move will reduce its establishment cost which is now 35% of the total expenditure.

Presently, the BEST spends more than Rs2,000 crore on salaries, wages and other establishment expenses. Majority of this – Rs1,450 crore – is spent on the loss-making transport wing and Rs460 crore on the power supply wing.

Anil Kokil, chairman of the BEST committee, the policy-making body of the undertaking, confirmed that the panel has approved the administration’s proposal

While approving it, the panel reduced the number of posts to be abolished from 7,350 to 7,200, accepting an amendment moved by Shiv Sena member Suhas Samant, who advised that 150 posts be retained.

“The administration can abolish all proposed posts, barring the posts suggested in the amendment,” said Kokil.

Presently, BEST has employee strength of 41,000, including 10,975 conductors and 10,614 drivers.

Its per bus staff ratio is 8.52, which is the highest among all public transport undertakings in India. So the move to downsize won’t affect the routine functioning, said officials.

The BEST administration had placed the proposal before the BEST committee along with the 2018-19 budget of Rs5,461.36 crore.

Significantly, the unions are opposing the move. Alleging that it is an attempt to privatize BEST, Shashank Rao, who heads the Municipal Mazdoor Union, said they will not allow it to happen.

“We will challenge the decision in court and if required, will fight on the streets as well,” said Rao. The MMU is the biggest union in the BMC and BEST.

Interestingly, a day before final discussion on the proposal, BMC had written a 10-page letter to the standing committee, threatening to dissolve the 17-member panel and appoint an administrator on BEST for “financial indiscipline, monopolistic behaviour and problems of the transport body”.

Going through its worst-ever financial crisis, BEST had requested financial assistance from the BMC, which has refused any financial aid unless BEST undertakes stringent cost-cutting measures such as fare revision and cutting staff cost.

First Published: Dec 01, 2017 11:19 IST