Despite repeated orders from the Madras High Court to drivers from the Tamil Nadu State Transportation Corporation (TNSTC) to resume duty, the bus strike entered day six in Tamil Nadu. The Centre for Indian Trade Unions told TNM that the protests will not end till Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar gave a written agreement on the wage revision that drivers and technicians are demanding.
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. Bus services across Tamil Nadu have taken a huge blow, leaving passengers stranded in the state. Following this, the High Court issued orders on January 5 and January 8 demanding that protesters return to operating the buses but the trade unions have refused to oblige.
"This is a matter of our wages. We cannot let go of this protest just yet," says K Arumuga Nainar of CITU. "90% of the workforce has not returned to work today and that means the transport department is missing 1,10,000 employees," he adds.
The CITU has alleged that earlier promises made by the government to ensure wage revision were not met with. "The High Court too spoke about arrears and pending dues to drivers in its order on Monday but not about wage revision. Last year, we ended protests because the government said change was around the corner. This time we will not stop till there is a written agreement," the CITU member explains.
The government's decision to engage temporary drivers to fill the gap in the workforce meanwhile, has come under heavy criticism. Two people died in the state on Sunday as a result of the drivers' inexperience while several other minor accidents have been reported across the state.
"Allowing temporary drivers to take control of the heavy vehicles is a crime," admits the CITU member. "The vehicles are old and not maintained well. In addition to this, technicians who can fix the issues are protesting," he adds.
But the problems faced by commuters finds little sympathy from the protesting unions.
"We and our families are also suffering. Can the government not notice that?" he asks.