Employees of four government transportation services in Karnataka held protests across the state, demanding higher wages and better working conditions. Employees of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Kalyana Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KKSRTC), and North Western Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (NWKSRTC) also demanded that dismissed workers be reinstated. In Bengaluru, hundreds of RTC workers agitated at Freedom Park on Tuesday, January 24, organised by the KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation and the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).
The unions have put forth a list of 16 demands for the state government to fulfil. The demands include a wage hike of 25% for all RTC workers, as they have been due for a hike since January 2020. They also demand for free treatment of the workers in ESI hospitals, which should be extended to retired workers and their families, including Rs 2,000 rupees every month for outpatient treatment expenses along with free medicines. The workers also demand that everyone who was dismissed from service due to strikes must be reinstated unconditionally, and that any FIRs against them be quashed.
â€śWe met with the Minister of Transport, B Sriramulu, and asked him to set a meeting with unions to discuss our demands. However, he says he will meet with the Chief Minister and only he can take the final decision, but so far nothing has happened which is why we were compelled to take this step,â€ť said Vijaya Bhaskar, General Secretary of KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation. He also said that the protest on January 24 did not impact the transport services for citizens, however, if the state does not take their issues seriously, they will be forced to go on another strike.
â€śThe workers are being cheated by paying them lower wages and making unscientific time schedules. Drivers or conductors who are working for 12-14 hours a day are only paid wages worth eight hours due to this. They are also made to work under immense pressure, which endangers the safety of passengers,â€ť Bhaskar further added.
Kumar, a bus conductor who has been working with BMTC, only earns Rs 33,000 despite having been in the service for 20 years. â€śOur salaries were supposed to increase three years ago and they still have not increased. When we approach the government they only keep stalling it. For three years, there's been some or the other new disease coming up everyday. I am the only one who earns in my family, how can I manage my childrenâ€™s education and our medical expenses with just Rs 33,000,â€ť he asks.