Tamil Nadu bus strike called off

Transport workers call off agitation after HC appoints arbitrator to negotiate pay; unions threaten to continue protest if demands are not met within a month.

Published: 12th January 2018 02:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th January 2018 07:44 AM   |  A+A-

Transport staff fast in front of Pallavan House (TNSTC headquarters) in Chennai on Thursday. The protest was called off in the evening | P Jawahar

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Commuters heaved a sigh of relief as travel plans to celebrate Pongal were back on track after an eight-day long stand-off between transport unions and State government ended with the bus strike being called off.

This followed the Madras High Court appointing a retired judge as arbitrator to look into the wage difference.

K Natarajan, treasurer of Labour Progressive Federation announced that the strike has been called off in the evening as commuters with their baggage were waiting for buses to ferry them off to their destinations with the State government announcing Friday as a holiday for schools in view of Pongal celebrations.
“The workers union fought unitedly and made the government accept our demands. We will return to work from Friday ,” he told Express. He also said the unions will resort to strike again if the government fails to address their demands in the next one month.

Workers of various transport unions went on a strike from January 4 demanding increase in their wages to 2.57 multiplying factor as against 2.44 factor and other demands.

This comes after Madras High Court appointed E Padmanabhan, a former High Court judge, as the arbitrator to adjudicate the difference of 0.13 multiplying factor wage hike and submit a report within one month.

A division bench of Justices S Manikumar and M Govindaraj on Thursday appointed him to adjudicate the difference of 0.13 multiplying factor while passing interim orders on a batch of PIL petitions relating to bus strike after hearing marathon arguments from senior counsel V Prakash and advocate NGR Prasad appearing for LPF and CITU respectively, advocates P Vijendran, C Krishnakumar and RY George Williams and Advocate-General Vijay Narayan.

Natarajan assured workers not to worry about the repercussions over the strike as the unions had also demanded wages for the strike period and dropping of criminal cases registered against workers.
On Thursday,  Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami made an announcement to settle `750 crore due to retired staff.

Arbitrator Appointment And Other Takeaways

Justice E Padmanabhan, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, has been appointed as the arbitrator.
This what the division bench of Justices S Manikumar and M Govindaraj said on Thursday: “In the interest of children, studnts, patients, elders, commuters and larger sections of the society, Justice E Padmanabhan is appointed as an arbitrator to adjudicate the difference of 0.13 multiplying factor and the date from which it should be applied.”

Pointing out that the unions are not talking in terms of public but in terms of their workers alone and the larger public interest should be taken into account, the bench said the only dispute as per the affidavit was the difference of 0.13 multiplying factor, which led to the strike and not other demands. Therefore, it would pass orders and it was for the unions to accept it or not. If they do not accept it, the main case would be taken up and the matter would be decided on merit.

Advocate-General Vijay Narayan said, the other demands cannot be re-adjudicated. With regard to adjudication by an arbitrator on the difference of 0.13 multiplying factor, he has to get instructions from the government.

Pongal Special Buses Not Being Operated In Chennai

Chennai: Owing to transport workers strike, the special buses announced by the State government from January 11 for Pongal are not being operated in Chennai, leaving thousands of passengers to opt for expensive private omni buses. As transport workers did not return to work till the end of the day after the High Court order, the special buses did not ply from temporary bus stops from Anna Nagar (West), Saidapet, Tambaram Sanatorium (MEPZ) and Poonamallee bus stand. Earlier, to facilitate other district passengers who live in Chennai to reach home towns, the government had planned to operate 5158 special buses between January 11 and 13, in addition to the regular 2275 buses. Besides, more than 40 per cent of regular buses also did not operate. With cancellation of regular and special buses, travellers were forced to pay excess fares to Omni buses.

Quick Glance

After talks to finalise the new wage pact for TNSTC employees failed, 17 workers unions launch ‘flash’ strike across the State on January 4, 2018
The AIADMK-affliated ATP and a few other unions were happy to settle for the 2.44 times wage hike, the DMK-affliated LPF, CITU, etc., had demanded a 2.57 times wage hike
Despite the HC order directing protestors to call off strike, TNSTC staff continue with their agitation
Workers get show-cause notices for their participation in the ‘flash’ strike on January 5

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