Vehicles get a free ride as toll plaza staff strike work
Frequent strikes by employees of five toll gates in the Salem-Ulundurpet section and, Namakkal and Krishnagiri districts have allowed vehicles to pass freely without paying.
Published: 28th March 2022 05:44 AM | Last Updated: 28th March 2022 05:44 AM | A+A A-
CHENNAI: Frequent strikes by employees of five toll gates in the Salem-Ulundurpet section and, Namakkal and Krishnagiri districts have allowed vehicles to pass freely without paying.
On March 14, a protest by staff of Veeracholapuram (Kallakuruchi) toll plaza demanding the reinstatement of sacked employees led to the free movement of vehicles in both directions. After police, revenue and toll plaza officials pacified the workers, the strike was called off. An employee said over 100 toll plaza staff have lost their jobs in Salem, Villupuram, Erode and Namakkal districts after the implementation of the FASTag electronic payment system last year.
He also said the Union government brought in the FASTag system without assessing its impact on toll plaza employees and other aspects.
“Most of the employees had worked nearly 10 to 12 hours a day for five to six years. But they were sacked without notice. The service of more than 20 workers in three toll plazas in Salem-Ulundurpet section was terminated by the management. Our salaries for January and February have also been delayed,” said the employee from Veeracholapuram. An employees’ association had moved labour court against the management’s decision, added the association member.
The FASTag system was first introduced in 35 toll gates in the State on January 15, 2020 and the remaining 12 toll gates, which handle a high volume of vehicles, were allowed to have 25 per cent hybrid lanes, to allow user fee collection through cash and FASTag.
However, the hybrid lanes too were converted into FASTag-only lanes on May 15, 2020. Since FASTag experienced glitches for more than a year, toll plaza management did not reduce staff immediately, said workers.
K Rajkumar is one of the motorists to benefit from the standoff. He said when his vehicle crossed the Krishnagiri and Mettupatti toll plazas last month, payment was not deducted from his FASTag account.
‘Cases in labour court, will be handled’
“When I approached the staff, I was told to proceed,” he said. The collection remains erratic, said motorists. SP Somashekar, regional officer, NHAI, Chennai said, tolls operate on Build Operate and Transfer model, and labour issues will be dealt by the concessionaire. He said, “Cases are pending before the labour court and will be handled accordingly.”