The stand-off between the city traffic police and private bus workers took a turn for the worse on Thursday with more buses staying off the road even as private bus owners and the recognised trade union of bus workers washed their hands of the continuing strike.
Leaders of the Private Bus Operators’ Association held a meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss the situation arising out of the continuing strike by a section of the bus workers, which they said had gone out of their hands. The meeting reviewed the situation and discussed a way out of what looks like an impasse.
The association has directed the bus owners to operate all services on Friday notwithstanding the continuing strike.
A decision was taken to replace the workers who continued their strike with other workers who were ready to work, an official of the association said.
Ernakulam Private Bus Operators’ Association general secretary M.B. Satyan said the owners had not given a call for a bus strike. It was a few bus workers who had decided to take stay away from work. He said the situation had got out of hand and that on Thursday, there was a situation in which buses could not even be brought to the Kakkanad bus stand as the strike spread to a new area.
He said some of the workers were also encouraging others who had not joined the strike to stay away from work. There are more than 100 buses plying between Kakkanad and Ernakulam city.
Buses plying between Aluva and Ernakualm stayed off the roads on Thursday for the second day. There are around 350 buses on this route.
The general secretary of the Private Bus Thozhilali Federation (AITUC), Joy Joseph, said that the bus workers’ trade unions had no hand in the strike. He said workers’ action was a spontaneous reaction to what he described as police highhandedness.
He said the bus workers at present had no forum to represent their views on the increasing road accidents and the need for proper traffic regulation.
No trade union of bus workers was against the police taking action against erring crew. But the habit of shooting in the dark and blaming the entire community of bus workers should stop. He also called for an end to the “media campaign that painted a dark picture of bus drivers and conductors”.
Mr. Joseph said bus drivers were being portrayed as murderers by the media, which was alienating the people from the bus workers.
However, a senior police official said the traffic police were acting in a balanced manner, booking only those involved in speeding and disobeying traffic rules.
He said the number of buses booked for offences had been considerably reduced, with just four cases on Thursday. Earlier this week, the number of bookings was eight to nine.
The strike appeared to be the handiwork of a few workers and no official contact had been made with the traffic police with regard to the strike, he said.
Meanwhile, five bus workers, who tried to stop buses from plying in the Thripunithura area, were taken into custody.