While six unions agree to call off protest, Municipal Mazdoor Union accuses BMC Commissioner of 'betraying' them, begins indefinite strike
Of the 1.24 lakh union workers who were earlier to go on strike, some 80,000 -- all belonging to Sharad Rao's Municipal Mazdoor Union (MMU) -- began the strike yesterday. The rest called it off. After negotiating an agreement with BMC Commissioner Subodh Kumar, six municipal unions backed out of the strike they had threatened to go on, leaving the MMU sticking firmly to its guns.
Firm: Sharad Rao, president of Municipal Mazdoor Union
Rao's union went solo in its indefinite strike at 9 pm last night, against the "betrayal of the commissioner on the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission (SPC)". Meanwhile, Kumar promised that no essential services would be affected due to the strike, warned that the salary of those on strike would be withheld according to the number of days they strike. However, sources say that water and solid waste management sectors may be slightly affected.
After several meetings with the commissioner, all the unions, save MMU, agreed to the commissioner's conditions. "It was sheer betrayal on the part of the commissioner who did not keep his word after the August 9 meeting. On August 24, when we were supposed to sign the MOU, the conditions were not in line with what was discussed," said Rao, adding that he would begin the indefinite agitation from Monday night.
The contentious issue is the Housing Rent Allowance at 30 per cent of the basic salary, the grade pay, and Travel Subsidy Allowance (TSA) at the rates and slabs recommended by the SPC.
"We have increased the TSA by Rs 400. And after implementing the proposed conditions, the expenditure would go up to 56 per cent of the BMC's total revenue," said Kumar. He added that Rao should think for the benefit of everyone. "If any employee joins in the strike, we would take action against them by cutting their day's salary. The strike has already been declared illegal," he said.
Kumar assured that no services would be affected. "We have bought in additional 2,500 home guards, and 650 will be diverted for the hydraulic engineering department so the water supply will not be affected. The engineers of the department have told me in written that they won't protest. The hospitals won't be affected as there is a good number of doctors and nurses working," assured Kumar.
He did mention that there could be certain glitches, but they need to endured as the money the unions are demanding is coming from the taxpayer, and should be used for development rather than paying salaries and pensions.