Mumbai: Cash-strapped BEST hands out partial bonus to staff

The complete bonus of Rs 5,000 has been given to only a few employees; the bonus amounts were decided based on the number of days they have as paid leave

After threatening to go on strike and stopping buses, to ignoring electricity supply complaints, the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) staff and their unions did everything possible to get their legitimate bonus for celebrating Diwali.

BEST has not paid Rs 5,000 as bonus to all its employees. Thinkstock pic for representation
BEST has not paid Rs 5,000 as bonus to all its employees. Thinkstock pic for representation

However, drivers and conductors now claim they haven’t got the full R5,000 bonus as announced. Sources in the Joint Action Committee — the body comprising BEST employees who fought for getting bonus — claim that the staff aren’t getting the entire bonus amount.

“The amount of bonus differs from employee to employee on the basis of the number of days they have as paid leave,” said Sunil Ganacharya, union leader and BEST committee member.

Sources added that the amount of bonus paid out differed anywhere from Rs 1,500 to Rs 5,000. A payout of the full amount (Rs 5,000) has been quite rare. The current bonus payment is for the last three years. BEST has counted the number of working days and leaves for calculating the bonus amount.

On November 3, BEST had taken a decision to pay Rs 5,000 as Diwali bonus or ex-gratia payment to its employees during its committee meeting, even as some members demanded that BEST employees be paid at par with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) employees, who got R13,600 as bonus.

The bonus added an extra burden on the cash-strapped BEST of Rs 40 crore — which includes an interest payout of R10 crore — on a loan taken from the BMC. The undertaking deferred payment of its loan instalment to BMC by one month and adjusted it against this Diwali bonus.

BEST has taken a loan of Rs 1,600 crore from the BMC to pay various financial institutions from whom it has taken a loan. BEST has 45,000 employees, of which nearly 25,000 are drivers and conductors operating the fleet of around 4,000 buses.

Officials emphasised that the decision to pay Rs 5,000 had been taken keeping in mind the financial position of the organisation. BEST also felt that strict checking of leaves of its staff was needed in order to minimise the bonus payout burden.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) that runs more than 15,000 buses across the state, also paid bonus of Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 depending on the designation of the employee.

However, sources in the state government said that around Rs 700 or so has been deducted for aid to drought regions out of this bonus amount.

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