Mumbai

Seeking wage agreement, BEST workers go on two-day dharna

Battle begins: Shashank Rao, general secretary of the BEST Workers’ Union, along with other workers protesting outside Wadala bus depot on Monday.

Battle begins: Shashank Rao, general secretary of the BEST Workers’ Union, along with other workers protesting outside Wadala bus depot on Monday.  

They ‘wait’ for Sena-backed Kamgaar Sena to keep its word

Several unions of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking started a two-day dharna on Monday, saying they are ‘waiting’ for the Shiv Sena-backed BEST Kamgaar Sena to come good on its announcement of securing a wage agreement along the lines of the Seventh Pay Commission.

“We don’t want to give them any excuse for not keeping their word. If they say they will secure an agreement by Tuesday, we are willing to wait until then,” Shashank Rao, general secretary of the BEST Workers’ Union, said.

The dharna is being staged by the BEST Sanyukt Kamagar Kruti Samiti, an umbrella body of all major BEST employees’ unions except the BEST Kamgaar Sena.

Nearly 98% of the BEST workers from the transport wing had voted in favour of going on a strike for the second time this year to demand a wage agreement, which has been pending since 2016. In January, BEST workers had gone on a historic nine-day strike demanding a new wage agreement among others.

On Thursday, a Kruti Samiti official said a message was being circulated on social media that the BEST administration had agreed to have a new wage agreement with the Kamgaar Sena, which was on par with the Seventh Pay Commission. However, BEST officials have denied that any such assurances were made.

The Kruti Samiti has sent a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis explaining its demands, which include a new wage agreement on par with the Seventh Pay Commission and the merger of the BEST budget with the budget of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Kruti Samiti officials said though they have been asking the administration to hold talks with them, the latter has been calling individual unions. “There has been no proposal from the administration even stating how much they are willing to increase the wage. Under such circumstances, how can negotiations take place,” an official asked.

The officials said the Sena’s image was badly hit during the strike and their strength had gone down by around 30%, with Mr. Rao’s union gaining the most from workers’ switching sides. “More will follow suit if the Sena continues trying to break the majority among workers,” an official said.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:22:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/seeking-wage-agreement-best-workers-go-on-two-day-dharna/article29263983.ece

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