Notwithstanding the Bombay high court order asking the protesting BEST drivers and conductors to call off their stir, the employees continued their agitation for the second day on Wednesday, inconveniencing thousands of commuters in Mumbai and suburbs.
Drivers and conductors of Mumbai’s public bus service, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST), had been on a flash strike since Tuesday to protest the new computerised scheduling system.
Bus services continued to remain paralysed on Wednesday, affecting office-goers and school children appearing for exams. Autos have been quick to take advantage of the BEST strike with several rickshaws running on share routes for those going on work.
As the drivers and conductors refused to comply with the high court order, senior BEST officials warned of strict action against them if they failed to resume work.
"If the strike continues despite the court order, Maharashtra Essential Services and Maintenance Act would be invoked against the protesting employees," a senior official, who refused to be named, told PTI.
Officials said the BEST management was ready for negotiations with the union leaders. "However, the union is pressurising the employees to stop reporting to work unless their demand for manual scheduling of work is met with," the official said.
BEST general manager Om Prakash Gupta said the scheduling system would optimise the use of workforce, ensure better frequency of buses and save Rs 32 crore for the undertaking annually.
According to BEST spokesperson Hanumant Gofne, though the industrial court had approved the new schedule, the union was misleading the employees on the duty hours. "The duty hours for BEST employees would not exceed eight hours a day," he said.
Around 40 per cent of the staffers had accepted the new scheduling system and even filled up forms, sources said.
The BEST runs a fleet of 4,200 buses and ferries 40 lakh passengers in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Mira Road daily. It has around 22,000 drivers/conductors who ply buses on more than 500 routes daily.
Image: Commuters seen at a bus stop near Dadar as BEST workers strike entered Day 2 on Wednesday
Photograph: Sahil Salvi/Rediff.com