In an attempt to get MSRTC workers to call off their month-long strike, the Maharashtra government announced a pay hike of up to 41 per cent for the transport corporation employees on Wednesday. The employees, however, said they were not satisfied with the hike and will call off their strike only when the Maharashtra government accepts their demand of merging the corporation with the state government.
State Transport Minister Anil Parab announced the pay hike for different slabs at a press conference following the second round of meeting with BJP MLCs Gopichand Padalkar and Sadabhau Khot, who is also the Rayat Kranti Sanghtna chief, along with delegation of transport staffers.
Even as Parab appealed to them to resume duty, the workers, who are staying put at Azad Maidan along with various depots, continued to insist on the merger, reasoning that they will automatically start getting all benefits after becoming government employees.
Parab announced Rs 5,000 monthly hike on basic pay for those who have been in service for 1-10 years, Rs 4,000 for 11-20 years of service and Rs 2,500 for those who have been with the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) for the past 20 years. He also promised the employees a raise in their monthly allowances.
In a meeting held with workers’ delegation on Tuesday, Parab had said that he had proposed the pay hike till the report of the committee appointed by the court to look into the the merger demand is submitted.
Following four hours of meeting with workers’ delegation, which also had the Minister for Higher and Technical Education Uday Samant in attendance, Parab met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar before announcing the pay hike.
Parab said he had also discussed the issue with NCP President Sharad Pawar.
Terming the hike as the “biggest in the history” of the state transport corporation, Parab said an incentive will be given to bus conductors and drivers who will play major role in increasing the revenue of the corporation. The government will ensure that the salaries of the staffers, which had become erratic due to the pandemic, will be released before the 10th day of every month.
He said the increase in salary will cost the corporation an additional Rs 60 crore every month, adding the MSRTC staffers will also get Dearness Allowance (DA) and House Rent Allowance (HRA) at par with that of the government servants.
Appealing to the staffers to resume duty to reduce the hardships being faced by people especially in rural areas, Parab said suspension of the staffers will be revoked immediately after they report to work. He, though, said that strict action would be taken against employees who did not return to work.
The new hike will get into effect from the November salary, Parab added.
Later in the day, Parab said the government has already taken steps to resolve the workers’ issues, adding that if they take “any other step now”, the government will be forced to “take the stricter step”.
The staffers, however, were in no mood to budge.
“We will hold a discussion with the workers in the night and announce their decision on Thursday morning. Right now, there is a lot of mixed emotions among staffers and it won’t be appropriate to say anything,” Padalkar said.
Lawyer Gunaratna Sadavarte, who is representing the workers’ unions in the Bombay High Court, said the government was using the court order regarding formation of a committee to look into the demands as a tool to avoid the merger of MSRTC with state government.
“The court has not banned them from taking any decision on the merger. In fact, if the government takes any positive decision on merger even before the (12-week) timeline, it will be better for everyone,” he said, adding the strike would continue until the merger.
Jagnarayan Gupta from Sangharsh ST Kamgar Union said, “The workers have already decided to continue with the strike as they (the government) have not accepted our demand but (are) cheating with us to end the strike. If they can give hike then who is stopping them from announcing the merger? Strike will be on till the merger demands are fulfilled.”
The workers strike, that kicked off on October 27, intensified from November 8 with all 25 bus depots in the state shutting down.
So far, MSRTC has suspended 3,052 staffers and terminated 645 temporary employees. Workers’ unions claimed that as many as 40 employees have committed suicide so far.