‘Handling of strike a sign of plan to privatise transport corporations’

The way in which the strike by employees of the State road transport corporations (RTCs) is being handled smacks of a design to privatise the once-robust corporations, trade union leader H.V. Ananthasubba Rao and the former Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy have said.

Mr. Reddy, who was the Transport Minister in the Siddaramaiah government had offered a pay hike of 12.5% during a similar strike in 2016. “The government should listen to employees by bringing them across the table and try to attempt to address their grievances,” he said.

He argued that the State government appears to be towing the Centre’s line that the government’s duty is not to do business and might privatise the RTCs. Incidentally, Mr. Reddy was instrumental for the introduction of ‘Comprehensive area scheme for the entire State of Karnataka’ wherein new permits were to be issued only to RTCs while protecting existing permits of private operators. The policy was brought to secure economic interests of existing private operators and to empower RTCs that had resources to provide services on demand.

Mr. Rao, president of the KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation which was the leading trade union of RTC employees, said the employees would have withdrawn the strike if the government had announced a reasonable hike in wages. The Industrial Tribunal, in August 2017, had ordered 20% hike in wages with effect from 2004 after the federation challenged the 5% hike offered by the government in 2004. The tribunal had also ordered payment of arrears with 6% interest from 2004 and doubling of bata for the crew.

Instead of implementing the tribunal order, the government approached the High Court and obtained a stay which is continuing till today. Had the government honoured the tribunal verdict, the present situation would not have come, Mr. Rao said.

On the federation losing hold over employees, Mr. Rao said the young employees were keen on getting some “instant resolution” from an organisation that does not have any ideological background. With the threat of privatisation looming large, they would learn the lesson now, he said.

The government that offers several fancy schemes through the RTCs does not reimburse the costs, let alone support the corporations. With the costs of inputs continuously on the rise, it was all but natural for the RTCs to be in the red and unable to meet employees’ expectations, Mr. Rao said.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 2:00:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/handling-of-strike-a-sign-of-plan-to-privatise-transport-corporations/article34292921.ece

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