Day 9: BEST union rejects committee’s proposal for pay hike, strike to continue
After an unsuccessful attempt by politicians, an intervention by the Bombay High Court also failed to break the deadlock between the BEST administration and workers as the public transporter’s strike entered the ninth day on Wednesday.
Over 32,000 BEST employees have been on strike since January 8 over their various demands, including pay hike, revision of pay grade for junior level employees, and merger of loss-making BEST’s budget with that of its parent body, BMC.
The HC had on Tuesday directed the BEST workers’ union to take a final decision on the withdrawal of its ongoing strike, the longest in the transporter’s history, and inform the court on Wednesday.
The direction came after the BEST told the court that it was willing to implement the redressal measure suggested by the state government’s high-powered committee on granting an interim pay hike to its employees.
Among other things, the chief secretary DK Jain-led high-powered committee has recommended that subject to the strike being called off workers be granted a ’10-step increase’ in salary for about 15,000 employees in a time-bound manner.
However, BEST Sanyukta Kamgar Kruti Samiti (BSKKS) – a joint action committee of labour unions led by Shashank Rao – rejected the proposal yesterday evening.
Rao alleged that the committee’s proposals were being influenced by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, adding that the latter was even trying to stop Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis from intervening in the matter.
The union also remained adamant on its demand of merging BEST’s budget with that of BMC while making a new demand of rejecting the economic reforms suggested by BMC chief Ajoy Mehta in 2017 – which would purportedly lower the staffer’s salaries.
Meanwhile, a senior BEST official said the government was seriously considering the demand. “The high-powered committee is giving serious thought to merge both the budgets. A decision on this is likely to come soon,” an official was quoted as saying.
Apart from the striking workers, over 25 lakh commuters are facing the brunt of the strike. To soften the blow, suburban railways are running extra services and MSRTC has deployed additional buses.