Mumbai: As wet lease buses form almost 38 percent of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) fleet, the bus unions are demanding that their drivers too be paid Covid allowance of Rs 300 per day and Rs 50 lakh financial aid in case of death. This comes at a time when over the past few days the drivers of wet lease buses have gone on sudden protest as salaries too aren't coming on time.
On Tuesday, the Shashank Sharad Rao led Sangharsh Kaamgar Karmachari Union and BEST Workers Union demanded that the wet lease bus drivers be paid this Covid allowance and an ex-gratia of Rs 50 lakh to the family in case of death while on duty. There are 1,243 buses on wet lease run by 2,500 drivers. The drivers have already gone on sudden protest, twice over the past few weeks, over issues on payment of salaries by their private employers.
“These drivers are also risking their lives to ferry essential workers. Even they should be provided Covid allowances and ex-gratia as BEST is the principal employer. The BEST administration has not paid Rs 300 Covid allowance to their own employees since June-end to December 2020 that comes to Rs 60 crore. We are demanding that from January this year, the daily Covid allowance should be raised to Rs 500 and given to both the employees of BEST and wet lease drivers,” said Shashank Sharad Rao, union leader.
The BEST is operating 1,243 buses on wet lease while 1,999 self-owned buses. “Our fleet also includes 48 double-decker buses and 206 electric buses,” said Manoj Varhade, BEST spokesperson.
The BEST committee members claim that the BEST administration had stated in their budget that they will procure buses and maintain the owned fleet at 3,337 buses. “The administration has not given Rs 10 crore per month of Covid allowance to their own staff. The BEST should also pay the wet-lease drivers as they are principal employer,” said Sunil Ganacharya, BEST Committee member