The Madras High Court, on Monday, directed the government to pay employees of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) their pending dues, as their strike entered day five. The court also ordered protesters to return to work immediately, in order to prevent further inconvenience to commuters and civilians.
As many as 17 trade unions launched an indefinite strike on Thursday night asking the 'factor' for wage revision be fixed at 2.57 times, while the state government contended that it should be 2.44 times.
On January 5, the Madras High Court had issued an interim order restraining employees from striking and asked them to return to work immediately. This, however, had little effect on the agitation.
Now, in its order, the court told the government to pay employees the salary arrears of Rs 5,600 crore and the pension amount of Rs 1,138 crore, but there was no mention of a rise in the current pay scale. The court reiterated its statement asking employees to return to work immediately.
"When an institution does not function, it is usually the owners who suffer. But when the transport system is affected, it the public that will be affected," said a bench consisting of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abduk Kuthoos. "Those who are protesting need to understand that it is students and the poor who are affected, not ministers or high-ranking officials.â€ť
The transport union had argued in court that the protest wasnâ€™t one that had materialised all of a sudden. "We had already protested in February, and we stopped then to allow talks to continue. But there was no action taken," the transport unionsâ€™ counsel argued. The counsel also pointed out that the government had promised in court last year to pay the Rs 5,600 crore due, but had failed to do so.
The Tamil Nadu State government has kept various payments pending to the transport corporation employees, including the pension of retired employees and the arrears to be paid as per the wage revision.
The Transport Corporation have reportedly been facing huge debts and heavy losses, rendering it unable to make the payments.
The striking unions said, "Our families are also affected. The government has cheated us.â€ť
The judge agreed in court that arrears of five to six years on the part of the government is not acceptable and ordered for the money to be released in stages.
"The court will, however, not remove the interim order asking for the strike to be stopped. The union did not give the requisite 14-day notice ahead of the protests. We cannot accept a strike that takes place without any intimation," said the bench.