CHENNAI: Transport unions affiliated to opposition parties went on a strike on Sunday, a day ahead of their original plan, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
State Transport Corporation employees belonging to LPF, CITU, AITUC, INTUC, BMS and HMS went on strike a day earlier than planned triggered by management’s decision to deduct salaries for the days they take off for trade union-related
activities. “In a meeting with officials on Saturday the deputy commissioner of labour said that about 50,000 employees will face a five-day salary cut to the tune of `4,000-5,000. Staff members had taken leave for participating in various union activities and had submitted leave letters as is the procedure. But the management maintained during the meeting that it did not accept their requisition and had decided to cut the salary,” charged K Natarajan, president of DMK-affiliated Labour Progressive Federation.
“Our strike will continue tomorrow as well,” he added. The unions are demanding a 50 per cent hike in salary and increase in dearness allowance, and also sought the renewal of the three year wage agreement that expired about 15 months ago. Union leaders also claim that many who have retired from service recently are facing difficulty in getting their pensions and other settlements. There are about 22,000 buses owned by eight transport divisions including MTC. Of this, an estimated 80 per cent stayed away from the streets on Sunday. A few buses operated in the morning for a single trip.
Some employees tried to operate the buses in defiance of the strike and were prevented from doing so by other staff union members resulting in skirmishes between the two groups in Pallavan House. Police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the crowd, in which Elumalai, a conductor suffered a leg fracture. He was admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.
Meanwhile, state secretary of the AIADMK-backed trade union, ATP, R Chinnaswamy said that buses will operate as usual on Monday. “There are about 92, 000 employees in our union. All these employees will operate buses tomorrow and make sure that there is no inconvenience to public,” he said.