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“If no increment, be prepared for strike”

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The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) might be keen to go ahead with the makeover of its fleet of buses and construct better bus terminals, but the organisation has failed to provide better amenities to its staff. Uniforms of staff too will be redesigned in colours of khaki, grey, blue and brown but their salaries and allowances have not been revised. The MSRTC employees union has urged the organisation to revise their salaries and implement the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission. More than one lakh employees of the firm had gone on strike in October last year demanding hike in salary. They had urged the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Transport Minister Diwakar Raote to intervene in this matter.

The Bombay High Court had asked the government to address the problems faced by MSRTC employees. Despite this, no breakthrough has been achieved as workers continue to fight for their rights. Raote had termed the demands of employees as unreasonable and added that it would be difficult for MSRTC to fulfil their demands. He said that unions had demanded highest ever wage hike proposal. Even Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray came forward in support of the employees’ demands. Thackeray said that employees deserve pay hike and the government should address their grievances at the earliest.

The 7th Pay Commission is nothing but a gimmick said, NCP MLA Kiran Pawaskar. “It is applicable only for the state and central government employees but private sector employees don’t come under its ambit. All these policies are good for displaying policy advertisements but not in reality. The government should come up with policies which guarantee job security as maximum employees in India work on contractual basis. Hire and fire policies should be discouraged. When Raote and other ruling party leaders were in opposition they used to put forward several demands for workers’ welfare. But after becoming transport minister, he is least bothered to resolve their grievances,” he added.

Hanumant Tate, the General Secretary of Maharashtra State Transport Kamghar Sanghatana said, “The committee appointed by the Bombay High Court to discuss on workers’ salary hike will deliver its verdict on January 10. Both government and Workers’ Union will discuss this matter and they may arrive at a solution. If they fail to meet our demands then union will again go for strike.”

Gopal Shetty, BJP MP said, “The 7th Pay Commission is a government’s policy and it has to be implemented in every state. Whenever MSRTC has adequate funds, government gives them directives to use the money for providing better amenities to commuters. Raote is an efficient leader and he will take a right decision at an appropriate time in the interest of employees. Since BEST is incurring severe losses and if in such situations it implements the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations, the corporation will have to bear the entire financial burden. Government is not unaware about employees’ demands and they will be paid reasonable wages.”

“With an aim to secure lives of passengers, MSRTC and the government is all set to roll new steel buses,” Transport Minister Diwakar Raote told Afternoon Voice. He further said, “New buses would be much more strong and cheaper than the existing fleet. Three workshops of MSRTC will construct the buses. Existing buses have three tonne body weight and maximum calculated weight of passengers and luggage is around 3.5 tonnes. It means, the buses are running with just seven tonne weight despite though carriage capacity of chassis and the engines is 15 tonne. Body weight of the existing buses will be increased by half tonne after adding steel body.”  “The MSRTC is having fleet of 18,000 buses and every year 1,000 to 1,500 buses are replaced by the organisation. We have saved Rs 80 crore this year in fuel component. We have encouraged competition between fuel supplier companies after which the companies had offered discount of Rs 1.20/litre. This had given a relief to MSRTC as Rs 28 crore were saved last year and Rs 80 crore would be saved this year,” told Raote. He further stated that, life of chassis of a bus is 15 years, however, the buses in existing fleet lasts for barely eight years. Hence, the MSRTC has decided to use old chassis to construct new buses and improve a lot in financial management.

“Conductors and drivers get paid between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000 per month, while private bus drivers are paid Rs 18,000. We are demanding wages as per the 7th Pay Commission. The government is ready to spend money on facelift of buses, but they don’t have heart to offer salary hike to those drivers who slog to earn revenue for MSRTC.” Sandeep Shinde, president of the Maharashtra ST Workers said.
The MSRTC bus services are used by 65 lakh passengers in the state daily. The organisation runs 18,000 buses, some of which ply at remote locations which remain unserved by rail network. The transport undertaking incurs a loss of Rs 450 crore per year. “The government agreed to offer only a part of interim hike, which is not acceptable to us. We have been rendering our services to passengers since long, but this time we need every support for our survival,” Shinde added.

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