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Will BEST buses be off Mumbai’s streets from tomorrow?

Unions object to the BEST’s plan to hire 450 buses, as they are worried it will mean a massive staff cut; threaten indefinite stir from Feb 15

mumbai Updated: Feb 14, 2018 16:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,BEST,bus strike
With a fleet of 3,300 buses, the BEST ferries around 28 lakh passengers in the city and its neighbouring regions every day.(HT File Photo)

In an attempt to prevent the proposed indefinite strike from February 15, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) administration has called union leaders for a meeting at its headquarters at Electric House, Colaba, on Wednesday afternoon.

A joint action committee of the BEST labour unions, including the largest BEST Workers Union, has threatened that all employees will go on an indefinite strike from Thursday to oppose the administration’s plan to hire buses on wet-lease from private contractors. The BEST Workers Union is the legally recognised union that represents the BEST staff.

BEST buses are the second biggest mode of public transport in Mumbai. With a fleet of 3,300 buses, the BEST ferries around 28 lakh passengers in the city and its neighbouring regions every day. It also acts as a feeder service to Mumbai’s lifeline, the suburban train service.

If the 40,000 employees affiliated to these unions go on strike, it will affect lakhs of commuters, as well as put additional pressure on other modes of transport.

The BEST committee, the policy-making body of the BEST, on Monday gave its nod to the administration’s proposal to hire 450 smaller buses, including 200 mini buses on wet lease. This means buses will be hired from a private contractor, who will handle the fuel, operation and maintenance of these buses.

The BEST, which is in serious financial trouble, is taking this step to avoid spending more on buying buses and employing staff. Further, many transport experts have suggested that smaller buses may cover routes faster and this attract more commuters. Leasing buses is also a condition set by the Mumbai civic body, to bail out its troubled undertaking.

The unions are worried that this decision will mean a massive staff cut. BEST employees are also upset as their January salaries have not come as yet.

Shashank Rao, leader of the BEST Workers Union, said BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde called for a meeting at 3pm and chairman of BEST panel Anil Kokil has called for another meeting at 3.30pm. “We are attending both meetings as they have called us. We will announce the final decision about the strike at the BEST workers’ melava (small rally) at Parel, which starts around 6.30pm,” said Rao, adding that they are not willing to compromise on their stand against hiring private buses.

First Published: Feb 14, 2018 16:34 IST