Bus services were completely paralysed in Maharashtra due to a five-day strike by the state transport workers. Lakhs of passengers use the 17,000 buses that operate across the state every day.
The workers struck work on 16th October in support of their demands for better salaries. Maharashtra State ST Kamagar Sanghatana led the strike with the support of six other labour unions. The unions demanded revision to salaries based on the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission. They had been negotiating with the administration but were determined to stick to their protest till their demands were realized.
It must be noted that the salaries of the Maharashtra State Transport workers are far below those of other state government employees. A majority of the workers (about 70 percent) draw only Rs.9000-10000 per month.
The workers did not submit to the condition of the Maharashtra government that they should call off their strike before negotiations. Finally, the Bombay High Court declared the strike “illegal” on 20th October and ordered MSRTC employees to end it immediately. At the same time, the court has asked the state government to set up a five-member panel by October 23 to look into the transport workers’ demand of revision of salaries. The panel has to submit proposals on an interim pay revision by November 15 and put in its final report by December 21.
The earlier experience of the workers does not give them much confidence in the government’s commitment to address their demands. These demands were first submitted on 1st December 2016, at which time ten meetings were held to negotiate. But nothing came of it. They were informed only after a year that although other state government employees would get the Seventh Pay Commission salaries, the transport workers would not get it. The state government is ready to give only 10% increase. Rs. 900 to Rs. 1000 a month hike is clearly inadequate.
Bus services in Maharashtra resumed on 21st October morning after employees of the State Road Transport Corporation called off their strike, at the end of 5 days of determined struggle based on the directive of the court to the state government to set up a panel and submit proposals for an interim pay revision.