(Eds: Updating with more details, quotes) Mumbai, Aug 7 (PTI) Around 17 lakh employees of the Maharashtra government began their three-day strike today to press for various demands, including implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission report. Also Read - How Safe is Covaxin? What do Phase 1 Trial Results Show? This Study Answers it All

On the first day of the stir, around 63 per cent of the class 3 and class 4 employees remained absent from work, an official said. Also Read - Job, Growth, Healthcare, Fiscal Deficit: Will Centre Address These Challenges in Budget 2021?

Though the unions claimed that the strike was “100 per cent” successful, the government suggested that the services in general remained unaffected. Also Read - Highlights, BAN vs WI 2nd ODI: Mehidy Hasan Shines as Bangladesh Beat West Indies by 7 Wickets to Take Unassailable 2-0 Lead

The unions had yesterday announced that class 3 and class 4 employees of Zilla Parishads, state hospitals, staff working at Mantralaya (secretariat) will participate in the strike.

However, a General Administration Department (GAD) official said today that 70.64 per cent attendance was recorded at Mantralaya at the end of the day.

The attendance registered for class I and class II officers was 83.32 per cent, and that for class III employees 70 per cent. The attendance for class IV officers was 37.28 per cent, he said.

The average attendance for the government employees on field (outside the Mantralaya) was registered at 37.18 per cent today, the official said.

As per information received from the rural health service centres, staffers did not take part in the strike on a large scale, he said.

“Hence no health services were affected,” the official said.

He said around 30-40 per cent nursing staff did not show up for work.

Around 20 per cent class IV staffers remained absent.

“For employees who are covered under the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance (MESMA) Act, they had already been notified that the strike has been deemed illegal.

“The provisions of the Act will now be studied and appropriate action will be taken against them,” he said.

The official said the government will follow the Centre’s policy of “no work, no pay” for the employees not covered under MESMA Act and cut their salaries accordingly.

Earlier in the day, State Government Employees Organisation president Milind Sardeshmukh said the government employees are yet to receive arrears accrued to them since the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission by the state government.

He claimed that 1.85 lakh posts of class 3 and class 4 employees are lying vacant in Maharashtra.

In a Government Resolution (GR) issued late last night, the government had said the employees’ decision to go on strike will be construed as “misbehaviour” and disciplinary action will be taken against them.

Another GR was issued stating that the 7th pay commission will be implemented from January 2019.

The demand of employees for a five-day week and raising the retirement age from 58 years to 60 years will be taken up during Diwali, an official had said last night.

The arrears will be paid in the salaries of employees for August month, as per the GR.

If the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission is delayed, the employees will get the benefit as per the wage structure of the central government employees from January 2019, the government had stated.

Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said today the government was surprised over the “sudden strike” called by the employees, “as most of their demands have been accepted by the government”.

“We have held repeated discussions with the unions representing the striking employees and assured them that their demands will be fulfilled in a time-bound manner. Yet they suddenly chose to go on strike,” the minister said.

A release issued by one of the striking unions claimed that “history was achieved today, as the strike was 100 per cent successful”.

“Employees in every district held protest marches, ‘dharnas’ and voiced their displeasure against the government. If the government does not take cognisance of this strike, the employees will then go on an indefinite strike,” it said.

Teachers and non-teaching staff of around 800 government-aided schools in Mumbai also went on strike, which affected the functioning of the schools.

In the last night GR, the state government had issued a resolution offering to make payment of dearness allowances into the bank accounts of teachers and non-teaching staff of government-aided schools.

“This decision created a confusion among the teachers whether to go on strike from today or not. Hence, some schools remained open. But this afternoon, we held talks with several leaders from the teaching community and decided to join the strike,” Subhash More, executive chairman of Shikshak Bharati, said.

Shikshak Bharati is a government-recognised union of teachers and non-teaching staff in Mumbai region.

Over 10,000 teachers in the region are affiliated with Shikshak Bharati, he claimed.

The Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTU) announced its support to the three-day long strike.

The BUCTU called upon the teachers in colleges and university to support their colleagues from the non-teaching staff, who will be in this strike and to ensure the strike is not disrupted.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.