Tamil Nadu bus strike enters Day 3, no respite for passengers

Commuters were hit hard by a strike called by employees of Tamil Nadu state transport corporations on Thursday night.- Bijoy Ghosh

Strike by transport unions across Tamil Nadu over wage-related issues entered the second day on Friday, causing hardships to people, with the government making all-out efforts to address the situation.

The striking unions, immediately grabbed the opportunity to take a pot shot at the government's move.

As the strike entered the second day on Friday crippling operation of the eight transport corporation running about 21,000 buses, the first bench of the High Court headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee ordered the workers to resume work or face the outcome including termination and contempt of court.

Hours after the Madras High Court ordered them to call of the strike, the transport corporation unions on Friday said their agitation would continue till their demands on wage revision were met by the Tamil Nadu government.

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Soundararajan said that the workers resorted to strike as the government went ahead with signing wage agreement without talks concluding.

"The government's "2.44% factor" (salary hike) will result in an additional expense of Rs 81 crore per month on transport corporations even as a special increment was being given to those who had joined work between 2013 and 2016".

He also warned that strict action will be taken against private buses who charge extra amount from passengers. "Recourse to lighting strikes or flash strikes without notice leads to the consequences of denying the citizens of their right to free movement and is clearly illegal and against the public interest", the judge said while passing interim orders on a PIL filed in this regard.

General Secretary of DMK-backed LPF, M Shanmugam, said they were not anxious about action from the government since any protest would attract action. "This wage agreement had the highest revision proposed, where the minimum was Rs 2,684 while the highest was Rs 11,361", the Minister said. The trade unions demand a 2.57 percent hike while the government insisted on 2.44 percent hike.

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Transport union leaders said they will challenge the court order, which they said is one-sided as they were not heard.

The strike started on Thursday night after a meeting between union representatives and State transport minister MR Vijaybhaskar remained inconclusive. The government just about managed to operate bus services with a skeletal fleet that AIADMK-affiliated unions were left to run.

However, reports received here said a large number of vehicles were off the road in different parts of the state like Chennai, Villupuram, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Madurai.

In the capital city, Chennai, a stone pelting incident has occurred at a bus depot. The strike began on Thursday evening when many bus drivers in Chennai were seen abandoning their buses between 5pm and 8 pm.

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