Mumbai: With over 3,337 buses going off the roads from midnight on Monday, commuters must brace for much hardship. Over 35,000 BEST employees have decided to go on an indefinite strike from midnight, as announced on December 24. This comes after an unfruitful meeting between the BEST management and union leaders on Monday afternoon.
Despite such an important meeting on the agenda, the general manager of the BEST was not in attendance. A personnel department official conducted the meeting, so no fruitful outcome was expected,” said Shashank Rao, president of the BEST Workers’ Union.
However, on Monday, an industrial court had restrained the employees of the civic-run undertaking from going on a strike. The BEST management had declared the strike illegal and issued internal circulars warning staffers of strict action if they proceeded with it. It further said provisions of MESMA would be invoked against union workers.
When the talks failed, the BEST management approa-ched the industrial court, seeking relief against the strike. A BEST spokesperson said the administration has taken all possible steps to keep the buses on road. “To avoid damage to buses from miscreants, windshields will be protected by wire mesh,” he said. Industrial Court Member SV Suryawanshi, after hearing the brief arguments, restrained the union workers from going on strike till it hears the complaint filed by the BEST management.
Meanwhile, citizens blame the government for not taking pro-BEST measures, like dedicated lanes, which will improve ridership. “Instead, they are pushing for projects like the Coastal Road and Bandra-Versova sea link, which are meant for private vehicles. This will cause a further decline in BEST ridership,” said transport expert Sandhya Gokhale, who is part of Aamchi Mumbai, Aamchi BEST.
This citizens’ group, which is supporting BEST employees, wants more people to join its cause. Vidyadhar Date, who is spearheading this citizen movement, said, “We are collecting signatures from as many people as possible. We will suggest measures which we feel BEST should take and then submit the charter to the state government.” BEST Kamgar Sena, a labour wing of the ruling Shiv Sena, has kept itself away from the strike.