BEST bus strike: After three days, we are back to square one, thanks to Bombay High Court

Mumbai: Even after three day-long hearings, the Bombay High Court has been unable to resolve the dispute between the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) management and its workers. On Tuesday, the HC granted another day’s time to the striking workers to decide if they wanted to withdraw the strike, which entered its eighth day on Tuesday. “Let us know on Wednesday morning about your decision on withdrawing strike. We clarify, the government will be at liberty to act as per law, if the workers do not resume,” said Chief Justice Naresh Patil.

The bench, also comprising of Justice Nitin Jamdar, made the observation after noting the readiness of the BEST management to implement the suggestions put forth by the mediation committee to break the stalemate. The committee under the chief secretary, in its report, suggested a hike in salaries but subject to the strike being called off. “As an interim measure, workers should be granted a 10-step increase in salary for about 15,000 employees in a time-bound manner. This amount of increment, however, will be subsumed in the final agreement,” the committee suggested.

Further, the committee recommended the modernisation of the BEST, but without retrenching any employee. After the report was submitted and perused, the counsel for the BEST informed the bench of its readiness to implement the suggestion of increasing the salaries. “We are open to implement the 10-step increment for our workers with effect from February. But this will be implemented only if the workers resume work by (Tuesday) evening,” the counsel submitted.

Notably, the 10-step increment would amount to a total hike of Rs 3,300 in the monthly salaries of every worker. Having heard the submissions advanced, CJ Patil said, “This situation cannot continue. There has to be some solution. We cannot allow the citizens to be inconvenienced further.” “The authorities will have to seriously consider implementing the

suggestions either emotionally or notionally,” the bench added. The judges accordingly asked the workers to take a decision on withdrawing the strike by Tuesday evening and update the bench on Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, Shashank Rao, the head of the BEST Workers’ Union, reiterated after the workers’ meeting in Wadala on Tuesday, “Until we get a written assurance of our demands, we will not call off the strike.”

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