Mumbaikars! Gear up for a possible BEST bus strike tomorrow
While transport body claims consensus reached with unions over new work schedule, the unions accuse officials of breaching their trust and threaten to go on strike again
It has been just 10 days since the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) drivers and conductors went on a flash strike on April 1, crippling the public transport system, but it appears that round two is not far away.
While the BEST undertaking has decided to start operations at its newly constructed depot in Malad, the first in 18 years, with the implementation of the new work schedule starting tomorrow, the employee unions have opposed the idea.
The new BEST bus depot at Chincholi Bunder, Malad bore a deserted look yesterday. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Representatives from unions said they were against the idea of the transport body wanting to swap the operational timings of the Goregaon and Malwani depots, with the one at Malad.
Over the last few days, several meetings have taken place between the BEST and the unions over implementation of the Canadian Trapeze work schedule, an integrated software suite for transport operators for improved efficiency.
But this has been the bone of contention between the two parties.
Sources in the BEST claimed they met with the unions on April 4 and April 7, and reached a consensus.
They also said the working hours, which the unions had strongly objected to, have been brought down between 10 to 11 hours against the initially proposed 12-hour shift in the new schedule.
“The new schedule will have changes as demanded and accepted by the unions. These will be implemented at the Malwani, and Goregaon depots. We will be taking drivers, conductors and buses from these two depots for the new depot in Malad. This will result in rescheduling of the existing timetable at the two depots,” a senior BEST official said.
BEST officials claimed the changes in timetable were being made to reduce the revenue losses of the undertaking which isn’t known to hike fares.
‘Breach of trust’
While the BEST officials claimed that a consensus was reached with the unions over the implementation of the new timetable, the unions said they were protesting the decision.
The Sharad Rao-led union claimed there was no mention of implementing the new system at the Malwani and Goregaon depots. “We weren’t informed about it. This is breach of trust. We will approach the Supreme Court,” Rao said.
Other union leaders said there were chances of a flash protest if the BEST implemented the new system at the three depots on April 12.
“They had implemented Trapeze on a plot-basis at Oshiwara and Wadala depots in July, followed by 10 other depots in November. But the system failed, as it created unrest among drivers and conductors. So there is no need for implementing it again,” said another leader.
MESMA on cards
The BEST administration has stated that it will invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services and Maintenance (MESMA) Act, 2011 if the employees go on a flash strike and hold protests in the near future. Being a public transport authority, which caters to over 40 lakh passengers daily, the administration feels it has every right to invoke MESMA.
Once invoked, protesting employees could be imprisoned and even lose their jobs.
Malad depot stats
170: Number of drivers
185: Number of conductors
48: Number of buses
91: Number of buses depot can accommodate
1 L: Number of passengers it would daily cater to
Number of BEST depots in the city, including the one recently
built at Malad
Number of people who use BEST services daily