The convenor of the unions said employees would return to work at 6 am on November 26, and requested the government to take them back.

After 52 days Telangana RTC strike called off by employee unions
news TSRTC strike Monday, November 25, 2019 - 18:04

After 52 days, over 48,000 employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation have called off their strike, and said that they would be reporting for duty at 6 am on November 26. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had previously said that employees were ‘self-dismissed’ because they didn’t adhere to his deadline to return to work.

A letter written by the Joint Action Committee, which was the group of the employee unions, to the Managing Director of the TSRTC stated that the JAC was calling off their strike with immediate effect, and advised all of them to return to duty. It further added that they hope that the government and the management “initiate favourable steps in this direction and permit the employees to resume their duties”.

The employees began their strike on October 5 with a list of 26 demands, with one of their major demands being that the TSRTC, an autonomous body under the government, be merged with the government so that employees receive the same benefits. When the state government refused to budge, the demand for a merger was dropped. 

"We have been on strike for 52 days. Despite restrictions and prohibitions, the strike was successful. The government has acted recklessly and ruined the RTC. Some officials have tried to squander away the organisation as though the country is being looted by thieves. The moral victory is of labourers. Neither have the labourers lost, and nor has the government won," said JAC convenor Ashwathama Reddy after calling off the strike. 

“From 6 am, all the RTC drivers should gather at their respective depots and rejoin duty. We appeal to the temporary drivers against coming to the bus depots. If they don’t take us back, we will intensify our strike. The JAC will make efforts to help the families of the victims who had died and killed themselves during the strike. Our protest will continue. We will fight until our issues are resolved," he added.

Raji Reddy, the co-convenor of the JAC, said, "The hardships that the labourers and their families are going through is inexplicable. The labourers will rejoin duty but this fight for protecting public transport will not stop."

Over 25 TSRTC employees have lost their lives in the 52 days the strike was on, and thousands of others have had to struggle to make ends meet.  

On Oct 18, the Telangana High Court, which was hearing a petition in the matter, stated that it can't decide if the strike was illegal or not, and observed that the Labour Court had the power to do so. The division bench headed by Chief Justice R S Chauhan then asked the Labour Commissioner to decide whether to move the Labour court or not.

The court had earlier asked the government to hold talks with the striking employees, which never materialised. 

The JAC’s letter to the MD on Monday stated they never received any response. “Hon'ble High Court also cited the observation of Hon'ble Supreme Court when a worker goes on strike, he merely voices his concern that his working conditions should be improved. It is not the expression of an intention to abandon the work in which he is engaged. Therefore neither the corporation, nor the State Government would be justified in concluding that merely by going on strike the workers have abandoned their duties,” the letter stated. 

The JAC had earlier announced that they would be willing to call off the strike if they were allowed to return to their jobs. 

The state government had earlier said that 50% of TSRTC’s routes — or 5,100 routes — would be privatised. A writ petition was filed in this regard, but on Friday, this was disposed of by the Telangana High Court. If the state government goes ahead with privatisation, it will leave many employees in the lurch. 

Read: Lost lives, uncertain futures: How govt apathy has left striking TSRTC workers in the lurch

Telangana RTC workers offer to end strike, but it’s a loss for democratic struggles

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