Tamil Nadu

Trade unions’ strike hits transport operations in and around Chennai

While the MTC officials said more than 50% of the buses were operated, opposition transport unions claimed only 10% buses plied as a large number of drivers and conductors refused to operate the vehicles. A scene at a bus stop on at Park Town in Chennai on Thursday, February 25, 2021.   | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

Hundreds of commuters in and around Chennai, particularly in the suburbs of Tambaram, Kancheepuram, Chengalpet, Thiruvallur and Poonamallee, were severely affected because of the transport strike called by the opposition transport trade union on Thursday.

With nine transport trade unions calling a strike citing the non-conclusion of wage talks, transport employees, comprising mechanics, supervisors, drivers and conductors, stayed away from operating the buses. Among commuters from far-off areas in the city left stranded were many college students.

Commuters, who planned to travel by suburban trains, were disappointed because of the limited operation of the services on the Chennai Beach-Tambaram section. This section is the most congested suburban train service and the limited operation announced by the Southern Railway to commission the third line caused severe hardships to the commuters residing beyond Tambaram.

T. Arul Das, a resident of Perungalathur, said that already the Southern Railway has announced restrictions for common public to travel in the workmen special services during peak hours. The operation of limited services left the residents with no option but to travel in private vehicles or commercial vehicles. He blamed the poor planning of the State government for the hardships faced by the people.

MTC buses

While the officials of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) said more than 50% of the buses were operated, opposition transport unions claimed only 10% buses plied that too during peak hours as a large number of drivers and conductors refused to operate the vehicles.

A senior MTC official said the strike call given by the transport unions was illegal as wage talks were being held and Transport Minister M.R. Vijayabhaskar had also announced an interim relief of ₹1,000 per month to all the employees.

Senior LPF trade union leader K. Natarajan said the unions were forced to call the strike because of the “humiliation” meted out to them. He said they were ready for talks at any point of time as the Transport Secretary and Labour Department officials had assured to fulfil their demands.

A senior official of Southern Railway said suburban train services were restricted on the Chennai Beach-Tambaram section due to the third line work carried out. Against the normal 150 services, only 80 trains were planned to be operated on Thursday, he added.

Bus services in Villupuram and Kallakurichi districts hit

Bus services in Villupuram, Cuddalore and Kallakurichi districts too, were crippled on Thursday.

Officials of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) said that about 85 % of the buses remained off the roads in Villupuram.

As a result, services to Chennai, Tiruchy and Madurai were badly hit, and commuters were forced to depend on private buses and other modes of transport.

In Villupuram, a large number of drivers and conductors owing allegiance to the nine trade unions gathered at the bus depots but did not report for work.

The strike by transport workers caused great inconvenience to people commuting to work, and to college students.

People who arrived in Villupuram from other cities in the morning depended on private buses and autorickshaws for transport.

According to T. Vinoth, an employee of a private firm, “The strike has caused a huge inconvenience to the commuters. People have been stranded for hours at the bus depots and the government should immediately intervene in the matter and resolve the issue.”

Strike curtails operation of bus services in Tiruchi

At least 50 % of bus services were affected in Tiruchi. Just 10 % of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) staff members reported for duty at the bus depots in Tiruchi city early in the morning. 

The situation began to improve as the day progressed. Operation of buses went up to 20% by 8 am and increased gradually. At the Central Bus Stand, nearly 40 % to 50 % of the buses were operated by 10 am. 

Most of the crew members, who reported for duty were members of Anna Thozhirsanga Peravai, affiliated to the ruling AIADMK. They took out the buses to the bus stands. Most workers owing allegiance to the LPF, CITU and AITUC took part in the strike. 

M. Subramanian, a TNSTC employee, said a limited number of buses were operated in the early morning. However, the numbers went up gradually as the day progressed. 

The limited operations put commuters to hardship as many had to wait for long hours to board buses to their destinations. Buses were operated for shorter destinations such as Dindigul, Manapparai, Thanjavur, Karur and Kumbakonam. But, there were hardly any buses to Ramanathapuram, Rameswaram, Kanniyakumari and Tirunelveli. 

A. Selvakumar, a passenger of Tiruchi, said that he had been waiting for a bus to go to Ramanathapuram since 7 am but was yet to find one till 9.30 am. 

Private buses operated as usual. There were allegations of collection of excess fare in some private buses operated to Pudukottai from Tiruchi. As against the normal fare of Rs.47, a few operators collected between Rs.60 to Rs.70 for Pudukottai, it was alleged.

Over 70% buses operated in Coimbatore district: TNSTC

Despite the strike called for by transport trade unions, the Coimbatore division of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) claimed that over 70 % of buses were operated in Coimbatore district on Thursday.

According to TNSTC officials, around 663 town and mofussil buses out of the total 868 buses were operated within Coimbatore district. All these buses were operated using permanent government employees such as drivers, conductors and supervisors and no contract workers were utilised. Due to this, the commuters in the district were not affected, they claimed.

However, general secretary of CITU Coimbatore unit M. Velankanni Raj claimed that around 65 percent of the buses were not operated in Coimbatore district on Thursday and that only 20 buses were operated per TNSTC branch in the district.

Apart from TNSTC buses, private buses were operated in the district as usual. According to V. Duraikannan, president of Coimbatore District Bus Owners Association (South), around 450 buses including 150 town buses were operated in the district on Thursday.

As many as nine Opposition trade unions such as LPF, CITU, AITUC and INTUC called for a State-wide strike on Thursday accusing the State government of not completing the wage talks. In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the unions condemned the interim relief announced by Transport Minister and demanded clarity on the next round of talks.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 1:40:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/trade-unions-strike-hits-transport-operations-in-and-around-chennai/article33929532.ece

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