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RTC workers’ strike ends without settlement

KSRTC Employees’ League criticised; trike, staff fail to get salaries revised as per Sixth Pay Commission recommendations

April 21, 2021 11:03 pm | Updated 11:03 pm IST - Bengaluru

KARNATAKA : BENGALURU : 21/04/2021 : View of Kempegowda Bus stand in Bengaluru on Wednesday 21 April 2021. PHOTO : SUDHAKARA JAIN / THE HINDU.

KARNATAKA : BENGALURU : 21/04/2021 : View of Kempegowda Bus stand in Bengaluru on Wednesday 21 April 2021. PHOTO : SUDHAKARA JAIN / THE HINDU.

One of the longest strikes by the road transport corporations ended on Wednesday without a settlement. Even after observing the strike for 15 days, employees were unable to get the cash-strapped State government to revise their salaries as per the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. The State government categorically refused to entertain any talks with the KSRTC Employees League, the union that had called for the strike.

However, the government had yielded to eight of the nine demands even before employees went on strike. On the contentious issue of salary revision, the government had promised interim relief of 8% hike to be paid to them after elections.

The government maintained that it had paid over ₹2,000 crore towards the salary of the staff during the lockdown despite facing severe financial constraints.

Nevertheless, the league decided to go ahead with the strike, a decision that did not garner it much sympathy especially as Karnataka was fighting a fierce second wave of COVID-19.

Many feel that the outcome of the strike undermined RTC employees, causing them more troubles. H.V. Ananthasubba Rao, president of KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation, said until now all their strikes had ended in settlements and there was no victimisation of employees.

For the first time, bus stands of KSRTC, BMTC and others opened for private operators. “This will open the floodgate for privatisation. The timing was bad, as people are dying because of the pandemic and hospitals are full. The strike has projected KSRTC employees in poor light,” Mr. Rao added.

Due to the pandemic, RTCs incurred revenue loss of over ₹4,000 crore. They also started raising loans from banks to pay pending bills related to pension and provident fund.

The RTCs used every trick in the playbook to foil the strike from issuing notices to over 7,600 employees, suspending more than 2,900 and even dismissing 1,970 people who were on their rolls. The labour union declared the strike illegal. Employees who took part in the strike were not paid salaries for March.

When asked about how they were going to protect the interest of employees who were dismissed or suspended from service, president of KSRTC Employees League R. Chandrashekar said: “Managements have taken illegal action against the employees. We will approach the High Court seeking justice.”

However, managing director of BMTC C. Shikha said there was no question of reinstating dismissed trainee employees as they had violated rules by taking part in the strike. “Employees who have been suspended from service will face disciplinary action as per the set rules. Further action will be taken based on their response.”

Mr. Rao claimed that Kodihalli Chandrashekar, honorary president of the league, was not aware of the issues. “In December, they started a strike with a demand to consider RTC workers as government employees. They later gave that up and started asking for pay revision as per Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. Two days ago, Mr. Kodihalli said some employees had gone to the court earlier and that the court had ordered a salary hike of 20% from 2004 with 6% interest. He claimed that if implemented. it would be more than the Pay Commission recommendations,” said Mr. Rao, adding that Mr. Kodihalli was not aware of the issues at hand.

“It was our union that had raised the demand, which was referred to the Industrial Tribunal in Bengaluru not the High Court. After a 12-year struggle, in August 2017, the tribunal gave order on eight or nine points, including revision salary by 20% from January 1, 2004. Later, the management approached the court and brought a stay. He is referring to this case and saying some staff approached the court. If he wants revisions as per the tribunal, why was the strike needed?” asked Mr. Rao.

Mr. Rao demanded the RTC managements to be considerate and lenient by reinstating dismissed and suspended employees barring those who have been accused of killing a driver in Jamkhandi and assaulting other drivers on duty.

He demanded stern action against those pelting stones at buses. More than 110 buses were damaged during the time of strike.

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