After being pulled up by the Bombay High Court, the strike by Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply & Transport (BEST) bus employees in Mumbai was called off after nine days on Wednesday. The BEST union agreed to call off the strike after the management accepted most of their demands and offered them a “10-step increment”. The parties will now go for mediation before a retired high court justice to resolve other disputes. The high court had given an hour to the striking union to call off the strike which threw public transport in the Maximum City into a tizzy and commuters faced a harrowing time by having to travel in overcrowded trains. The high court was informed that the strike was called off at 1.30 pm.
One of the demands of the BEST workers who are on strike since Tuesday is the merger of the budgets of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the loss-making BEST. Other demands that the agitating workers are pressing for are employee service residences, gradation pay hike, wage settlement and issues pertaining to recruitments.
A committee constituted by the state government and headed by the chief secretary had recommended that workers be granted a “10-step increase” in salary as an interim measure. Earlier this week, the High Court had criticised the workers for continuing their bus strike and inconveniencing commuters. The BEST union told the court that it was forced to remain on strike because the administration was refusing to comply with their demands.
This strike is the longest-ever in the history of BEST, with the last agitation in 1997 called off in three days. As many as 32,000 staffers from the transport wing of BEST were on a strike since January 8 and as many as 3,337 buses, including 120 double-decker buses, are off roads. As many as 8,000 employees of the electricity wing are on a strike and this could affect restoration services in case of major power cuts/outages in the city.
While both the striking workers and commuters wanted chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to intervene to end the impasse and bring relief, as per media reports, the government had not reached out to the union with any counterproposal.