Commuters had to face huge inconvenience on account of the illegal strike called by BEST employees.
Mumbaikars had to bear the brunt of the BEST bus strike as they had to commute in suburban trains, hire autos and taxis to reach their office. Most of the commuters had to shell out more money while commuting in autos and cars.
Autorickshaws and taxi drivers made the most out of the strike as they started overcharging commuters. On the other hand, many passengers had to face huge hardships as auto rickshaws and taxis were refusing fares. Some passengers had come together to share cabs for reaching their offices in business districts of Bandra, Andheri and Lower Parel. Passengers had to stand in scorching heat for many hours to board autorickshaws and taxis.
BEST drivers and conductors have been protesting against the new computerized scheduling system. As per reports, almost all of the 3500 buses were standing idle inside depots and only 10 buses came on the roads. Further, only a handful of workers reported for duty yesterday. The Bombay High Court has said that the strike called by drivers and conductors is illegal and asked them to report for work.
As per officials, nearly half of the BEST staff had agreed to the new scheduling system by Monday. However, the remaining ones decided to go on flash strike in protest.
BEST workers’ union leader Sharad Rao, who held a press conference said the strike will “continue” as workers are upset with the management and are opposed to the new computerized scheduling system. He said other unions, including those in BMC and autorickshaws, may support the stir from Wednesday.
The new schedule has been worked out by Trapeze, the Canadian firm that has been engaged by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking to help it to rework its systems towards reducing losses. The new schedule is expected to cut losses by Rs 32 crore.
For a staffer on a long route bus, it could take more than an hour and a half to complete a single trip. According to the new chart, even if he has just half an hour of duty to be completed for the day, he would have to make the trip before calling it a day,” an employee explained.
The unions that went on strike are against the 12- to 13-hour work schedule for 20% staffers; they are demanding that the earlier manual system of scheduling be reinstated.
The unions are also demanding that BEST revoke the recent suspension of 11 workers, against whom action was taken for opposing the schedule.
Kishore Shah a FY Bsc student from Kandivali said, “There can always be a better way to resolve this issue than just go on strike without prior notice. We acknowledge the services of best workers but they should be aware of their social responsibility. Several school going students having exams had tough time while reaching schools.”
Amol Patkar a BPO employee from Malad said, “There were no buses in the morning. Even if there are buses – they do not schedule the buses properly which results in loss to the corporation. They should close down and hand over the business of running bus to private operators.”
BEST general manager Om Prakash Gupta had appealed workers to join duty yesterday evening failing which punitive action will be taken against them.