BEST slashes salaries of absentee staff

Under pressure: The BEST has been unable to cater to increasing demand due to absenteeism.

Under pressure: The BEST has been unable to cater to increasing demand due to absenteeism.   | Photo Credit: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

Charge sheets issued to nearly 2,000 employees for not reporting to work

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking has not paid salaries of several conductors and drivers for the month of May. The move, aimed at reducing absenteeism within the traffic department, has been strongly opposed by BEST Sanyunka Kamgar Kruti Samiti (BSKKS), an umbrella body of the BEST unions. The BSKKS has alleged that salaries of nearly 15,000 employees have been cut, with several getting ‘zero’ on their salary slips.

The BEST administration has, over the past one week, issued charge sheets to nearly 2,000 employees, including drivers, conductors and engineers, for not reporting to work. Shashank Rao, BSKKS leader, said the move flouts the directives of the State and Central governments who have directed even private companies to continue paying salaries during the lockdown.

“By not paying any salary, they have left thousands of workers in the lurch as many would have EMI payments, and school fees to pay. What will they do now? Many of the employees, whose salaries have been cut, are those who were under quarantine or were over 55 years, and in many cases stuck in their hometowns with no means to return,” Mr. Rao said, adding that if any action needed to be taken it should be done on a case by case basis.

Manoj Varade, Public Relations Officer, BEST, said that the figure quoted by BSKKS was inflated. He said the move has been taken only against those staff members who have not reported to work for a single day in May. “Due to absenteeism of drivers and conductors, we have been unable to run more buses or cater to the increasing demand over the last one week. This is the reason why there are long queues, and physical distancing measures are being flouted by the public,” he said. Moreover, the continued absenteeism was putting undue pressure on those who worked during the lockdown period and were unable to even take their weekly offs.

Senior BEST officials said they had taken this extreme step after already having issued show cause notices and charge sheets. They were only able to operate between 2,400 and 2,500 buses out a schedule of around 3,000 buses every day, affecting frequency. Since Monday, BEST has been ferrying around four lakh passengers daily. The officials added that out of 20,500 drivers, only around 16,000 were reporting to work.

Suhas Samant, leader of the BEST Kamgaar Sena, said the government had assured that workers will get paid if they had to be under quarantine or stay at home for some other reason.

“The Kruti Samiti is only trying to tarnish this government’s efforts. They had threatened to strike earlier, which did not work. Today BEST is the only organisation that is providing transport service and people can’t just sit at home enjoying their wages,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 8:20:20 AM |

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