MADURAI: The crew of State Express Transport Corporation (SETC) buses here complain that they are overworked and forced to work a 20-hour shift, especially on Chennai-bound buses, which they claim has caused fatal accidents in the past.
Drivers of these public transport buses charge that they are being denied rest, a practice which according to a few aggrieved employees is continuing for the past three years in Madurai SETC.
Around 80 crew members operating Chennai services claim that they are given just about two hours of rest and they sleep only in the bus which is a violation of the Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961, which mandates that employees must be given eight hours of rest. However, a senior SETC official denied the charge and said they are given mandatory rest.
Citing data to support their claim, the employees said buses operated by Madurai SETC met with 120 accidents, including 75 major ones which killed 14 persons including a conductor and grievously injured 60, between 2013 and 2014.
With most of its 290 employees being drivers-cum-conductors, Madurai SETC operates 117 buses daily to several places including Chennai, Bengaluru and Tirupathi, and operates 46 services between Madurai and Chennai.
"The SETC administration forces employees to work a 20-hour shift to operate the Chennai-bound buses to and fro," said a driver on condition of anonymity.
Madurai-Chennai bus services are provided continuously between 4 am and 11.30 pm every day. "If a bus leaves the Mattuthavani bus terminus at around 7 pm, it would reach Chennai by 5 am the next day. The same crew would then operate the return service at 9 am the same day," said another driver.
“The administration might claim that crew are given four hours of rest. But once the bus reaches Chennai, the crew spends the next two hours settling accounts and checking the condition of the vehicle at the workshop," said N Mahalingam, state vice president, SETC Retired Employees Welfare Association. “We would be tired after the long trip from Madurai to Chennai, but have to operate buses for the next 10 hours. This creates chances of more accidents," said a 55-year-old driver.