Mumbai: After over 33,000 employees of BEST buses went on an indefinite strike since Tuesday over their demands, including higher wages, the state government invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against the employees who went on the two-day nationwide strike.
“The industrial court has restrained the union and workers from going on strike. Since the order is in effect, there is no question of any negotiations,” said BEST Workers’ Union led by Shashank Rao. “Let them call off the strike and then come to me for any settlement.” BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde confirmed that proceedings against the staff under MESMA will continue on Wednesday.
Police security will be beefed up to ensure there is no law and order problem on Wednesday morning when services resume. Shiv Sena union leader Suhas Samant said, “Buses will be operated on Wednesday with police protection and with grilles fitted on windscreens. The management has agreed to hold talks on employee issues with our union as we have withdrawn support to the strike.”
This is the second such strike in one-and-a-half years. On BEST’s request, staterun Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) ran special buses; railways also pitched in with extra services. Autorickshaw queues were very long in suburbs like Andheri, Borivli, Kandivli, Mulund, Kurla, Chembur, Ghatkopar. Ola and Uber cabs reported surge pricing in many areas.
The BEST has a fleet of over 3,200-red-colour buses which criss-cross the metropolis and also operate services in the neighbouring Thane district and Navi Mumbai. It is the second-biggest mode of transport in Mumbai after local trains, which ferry over 80-lakh passengers every day.
The employees are demanding higher salaries, merging budget of the loss-making BEST with that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), deliberations on new wage agreement, resuming appointments on compassionate grounds and bonus equivalent to that of the civic body employees.