Karnataka govt bans RTC employees’ strike, they say strike to continue

The Road Transport Corporation employees went on an indefinite strike on April 7 demanding they receive payment in accordance with the Sixth Pay Commission.
BMTC bus stand
BMTC bus stand
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The Karnataka Government on Friday banned the indefinite strike by employees of road transport corporations over wage-related issues. The strike, which began on April 7, has affected bus services across the state. The strike includes most employees from all four RTCs in the state — Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) and North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC).

The order was issued on the grounds that the public was inconvenienced and that it is against the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act. The dispute has been referred to the Industrial Tribunal, Bengaluru, for adjudication, it added. Transport Department Principal Secretary Anjum Parvez on Thursday had said that the daily loss because of the strike is about Rs 20 crore.

On Friday, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa appealed to employees to resume work even as he made it clear that it was not possible to meet their demand for wages as per the Sixth Pay Commission. Ruling out any talks, he asked them not to be stubborn under "someone's influence" and understand the financial difficulties of the government in the present situation and cooperate by resuming services in the interest of the public.

"I request the transport workers with folded hands, don't be stubborn under someone's influence. Last year, despite COVID-19 related issues when your corporations didn't have money to pay your salaries, we paid it by utilising Rs 2,300 crore from the exchequer," Yediyurappa said. The CM clarified that implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission report for RTC workers was not possible under any circumstances in the given situation.

The Chief Minister said that 85% of the government's revenue goes towards salaries for government employees, various kinds of pensions and other non-plan expenditure and only 15% is available for developmental works. He added that eight out of nine demands have been fulfilled, and would rectify if there are issues with any of the other demands. 

With the government maintaining its stand on wages, RTC employees decided to continue with the strike on Saturday as well. Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, honorary president of Karnataka State Road Transport Employees League, said the strike would continue until the government understands the employees’ “justified demands”. He also called on employees and their families to stage a protest at district and taluk centres in front of Deputy Commissioner or Tahsildar offices at 11 am on April 12 against the government's stand.

Amid threats of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) being invoked and "no work no pay", a few RTC workers returned to work and buses were reportedly operating on some routes in the city along with police escort, sources said, adding there are similar reports from some other places in the state.

The RTCs have been warning employees against continuing with the strike and have started taking action against trainee employees. Notices are being issued for absence from work. The KSRTC on Friday issued transfer orders to at least 200 employees.

“The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation has taken action to transfer 244 Drivers and Conductors, five Traffic supervisory staff, 34 mechanical staff and nine other staff who were instigating other employees to go on strike and threatening them not to report for duties and obstructing the operation of Corporation buses causing inconvenience to the travelling public from their Divisions to other Divisions with immediate effect,” read the order.

On Friday, as employees of all four transport corporations did not attend duty, buses continued to remain off roads across the state, including Bengaluru, affecting daily commuters. Private buses, minibuses, taxi cabs and other transport vehicles, which authorities roped in to manage the crisis and help commuters, provided services to those stranded in different parts of the city and the state.

However, the number of passengers using private buses continued to remain low in the city, as people used their own vehicles or cabs, the Metro and auto-rickshaws, especially in the city areas, private operators said. The Metro has increased the frequency of its services between 7 AM and 9 PM.

(With PTI inputs)

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