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BEST takes steps to avoid repeat of April flash strike

Officials are personally meeting drivers and conductors to gauge their problems before rolling out the new computerised work scheduling system from June 1

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) officials are doing all they can to ensure that a flash strike, like the one on April 1 and April 2, doesn’t occur.

As buses piled up at the Mumbai Central depot during the strike, people had to wait for hours to get taxis to commute to work, school and college. File pics
As buses piled up at the Mumbai Central depot during the strike, people had to wait for hours to get taxis to commute to work, school and college. File pics

The protest, which crippled the city, especially causing problems to school-going children, was against the new work scheduling system the undertaking had introduced on that day. Employees felt the system made them work for longer hours.

Officials are now visiting canteens and rest rooms at bus depots from April 28, to know views of drivers and conductors, before the revised work scheduling system is brought into practice again from June 1.

The scheduling system is being computerised, with a Canadian firm called Trapeze providing its software. The schedule has been displayed at all depots.

Top bosses, including the GM, have asked all managerial level staffers to go to bus depots and talk to drivers and conductors there about the problems that they face every day.

Sources said that a committee has been formed and members are asking drivers and conductors about their opinions on the revised work schedule.

Made for India
BEST authorities are upset that unions are coining this system as a ‘Canadian system’, whereas it is said to be customised to suit the needs of BEST workers. The BEST claims the work schedule is expected to lessen the working hours of drivers and conductors, from 12 hours to 10 hours.

Officials claim that currently the drivers and conductors work for 12 hours, and that the new system would reduce the number of people who have to do these hours. “We have put up the working hours applicable under the revised work schedule at each and every depot.

We will also improve conditions of chowkies and smaller bus stations after identifying it,” said OP Gupta, BEST general manager. These improvements will be done once the revised work schedule is introduced, and depending on the areas where drivers and conductors will be the most using it, the bus stations shall undergo improvements.

“We have limited funds and so a handful of important chowkies will undergo infrastructural improvements,” added Gupta.

Unions take note
The recent flash strike also brought unions down to their knees. No union knew the employees would go on strike that day, and none were able to pacify the protesting members. Unions are surveying bus depots and speaking to employees.

“I am visiting different bus depots where the work schedule has been computerised and talking to workers. We have to ensure their voices are heard, so that another round of protest doesn’t happen in future,” said Suhas Samant, BEST union leader and committee member.

Presently after several trial runs, the BEST has initiated the new work schedule at 12 depots, while manual work schedules are being followed at 13 depots.

The issue is subjudice, as the unions have approached the court. The administration wants to ensure that there is no wrong information passed to their employees, and a decision on the new system will be taken as per the court’s order.

Striking work
Revenue from ticket sales on April 1: Rs 21,112
Revenue from ticket sales on April 2: Rs 7,56,094
Drivers and conductors working
Drivers: 22, Conductors: 19 (April 1)
Drivers: 8, Conductors: 3 (April 2)
Buses that ran on April 1
Morning: 8
Evening: Nil
Buses that ran on April 2
Morning (April 2): Nil
Evening: 366
Total no of scheduled buses on each of these days: 3,954

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