The indefinite strike called by the Joint Committee of Trade Unions of Karnataka State Road Transport Undertakings from Thursday appears to have had an effect across the State from Wednesday itself.

The unions are opposing the unilateral wage increase announced by the managements of the road transport corporations (RTCs).

Transport workers staged gate meetings and abstained work from Wednesday afternoon, affecting normal operations.

Transport corporation officials admitted that over 30 per cent of services were affected in Bangalore. Buses appeared to be running packed to capacity on Wednesday evening.

Leaders held

Meanwhile, the government, in a bid to thwart the strike, detained union leaders. According to committee convener and KSRTC Staff and Workers’ Federation general secretary H.V. Ananthasubba Rao, three, eight and 16 leaders were arrested in Peenya, Tumkur and Maddur respectively. This even as managements transferred about 400 leaders and warned another 5,000 union members.

‘Insufficient hike’

The strike was called after the managements “betrayed” the unions by going back on their word to hold negotiations before any wage settlement, Mr. Rao said. The wage hike was insufficient and their other demands too had been ignored, he said.

But KSRTC managing director N. Manjunatha Prasad appeared unfazed at the strike. “All employees attended to their duties as usual. The 10 per cent hike [announced] is the biggest in the history of RTCs in Karnataka,” he said.

He contended that in real terms, this hike translated to over 23 per cent for BMTC employees and 18 per cent for other RTCs.

Unions divided?

“I interacted with many crew members who were happy with the hike and said they did not expect this,” he told The Hindu. Of the eight unions, six were with the managements; only two were going ahead with the strike, he added.

Mr. Rao, however, said there was no going back on the strike till the government and managements were open for negotiations on wage revision. He said, “Management’s claim of 18 or 23 per cent hike is not true. We are also concerned about the fate of over 33,000 trainee employees, who will get just a Rs. 400 hike on an average salary of Rs. 4,000.”

BMTC managing director K.R. Srinivasa said the corporation was confident of operating at least 70 per cent of the schedules.