Strike for nominal demands can’t be countenanced: HC

Directs agitators to get back to work

January 06, 2018 01:13 am | Updated 08:10 am IST - CHENNAI

While directing striking transport corporation employees to return to work, the Madras High Court on Friday made it clear that boycotting work to press for nominal demands cannot be countenanced.

Observing that employees were entitled to air their legitimate grievances, a bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose said: “However, strike calls on issues such as this to press nominal demands of about ₹600 per month (more than what the State had agreed to offer) or so cannot be countenanced.”

The judges added that the State was bound to protect the right of free movement of citizens and it could do so only through the transport corporation workers. “Innumerable office-goers, students and other service providers avail of public transport to attend to their duties. Disruption of transport services would affect students and also others.

“Recourse to lightning strikes and/or flash strikes without notice leads to the consequence of denying the citizens of their right to free movement and is clearly illegal and against public interest,” the first Division Bench said and ordered notices returnable by Monday to all the trade unions that had given the strike call.

During the course of the hearing of the case, Advocate General Vijay Narayan said the wages for transport corporation employees were revised once in three years though such exercise was carried out once in four years with respect to other pubic sector undertakings and once in 10 years in so far as government employees were concerned.

Pointing out that a wage settlement reached on September 1, 2013 was in force till August 31, 2016, the AG said the government had held 12 sittings for deciding the latest pay revision and finally a settlement was signed by 32 trade unions on Thursday. However, a minority of 14 unions refused to sign the settlement.

Highest increase

Mr. Narayan contended that the latest wage settlement provided the highest increase in salary compared to previous settlements. He said the wage increase given to bus drivers varied from ₹2,684 to ₹10,322 per month depending upon the length of service. Similarly, the hike for bus conductors varied between ₹2,706 and ₹11,361 a month.

In case of technical staff, the increase was between ₹2,531 and ₹11,948 and for the administrative staff it was from ₹2,531 to ₹12,566 per month. It was also decided in the settlement talks that the pay scale for newly recruited drivers would be increased from ₹6,900 to ₹17,700.

The AG said: “Seventy per cent of workers have accepted the wage revision. The rest cannot be allowed to hold the public to ransom because transportation is an essential service.”

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