On July 20, 2012 over 450 motormen of the Western Railway in Mumbai under the leadership of their Union, Western Railway Motormen’s Association (WRMA) struck work by going on mass sick leave at 3.30 pm. Due to the protest action by the motormen the entire rail transport in this section was completely shut down and brought half of Mumbai to a standstill. The strike was withdrawn at 7.30 pm after the authorities agreed to the main demands of the motormen. The Western Railway Line carries over 34 lakh commuters daily. It operates between Churchgate in the south of the city to Virar on the outskirts.
The Western Railway Motormen were forced to take this precipitate action due to the indifference and arrogance of the Railway Authorities to their repeated representations regarding their grievances. The motormen who have the responsibility of carrying millions of commuters in Mumbai everyday have to work all seven days of the week leading to overstressed conditions, which are a direct threat to the lives of millions of people! At the same time they are severely punished for any error. They do not have the assistance of a co motorman/assistant to help in navigating the many signals on the route.
To rub salt into their wounds, the railway authorities recently declared results of their “selection procedure” for Training Officers/Supervisors to be promoted from the ranks of motormen. These Training Officers/Supervisors would be in charge of training motormen as well as supervise their work. To their anger, the motormen found that those among them who had collaborated with the authorities during their earlier agitation and also who were junior to them were now being given promotions and would be in charge of training them and monitoring their performance! Last year also the railway authorities had tried similar tactics of unfair promotions, but the motormen went on a work to rule agitation, which resulted in huge delays in running of the trains and they were forced to take back these promotions.
The Motormen under the leadership of WRMA had written several letters to the authorities protesting against these latest promotions. However there was no response from the authorities and instead they were provocatively taunted by “Why do you not go on strike?” Unable to bear the continuous insult to themselves and their Union, the hardworking motormen of Western Railways were forced to take the step of going on mass sick leave.
Faced with the united action of the motormen, the authorities were forced to sit with the leaders of the WRMA to sort out their demands.
The main demands of the motormen were
- Immediate transfer/suspension of the current DEE (Divisional Electrical Engineer), the Controlling Officer for the motormen who was the point person for the persecution of the motormen.
- Taking back the results of the "selection" of "Training officers/ Supervisors" carried out to persecute the motormen and demoralise them.
- A stop to violation of safety rules by the authorities in the name of keeping the trains running on time and also against implementation of new rules which are in violation of existing safety rules.
- A regular weekly off
- An assistant motorman
The authorities conceded the first three demands and agreed to refer the remaining demands to the Railway Board.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar fully supports the just struggle of the Western Railway motormen led by their Union, WRMA for their rights.