Employees of Mumbai's bus service BEST announce indefinite strike

Friday, April 21, 2006

BEST operates India's largest fleet of buses, carrying 4.5 million passengers daily

At least 45,000 employees of the BEST, Mumbai's public transport provider, are going on strike indefinitely. Workers are unhappy with changes made to wages and are concerned about their working conditions. Union leaders say the strike will end when the company rethinks its decision.

Nearly 3,300 buses will be taken off the road since talks with union leaders have drawn an inconclusive response; at least 450,000 commuters are expected to be affected by the strike. Another round of talks is expected to take place later today. An Industrial Court has termed the strike call illegal. BEST has warned employees participating in the strike that they would be faced with disciplinary action.

Sharad Rao, General Secretary of BEST's workers union, said that "the management took this decision arbitrarily without even coming to the negotiating table. They moved to the committee to change the wages and other conditions on their own, and that is absolutely illegal. Three days ago, they have again moved to the BHT committee asking them to freeze the dearness allowance which no worker is going to tolerate". Dearness Allowance is an inflation-linked component of wages.

"I have been on the road for the last one hour. Normally I would have just hopped on to a bus," said commuter Mukul Chandan. Commuter Janki Patel reported, "I travel by bus everyday, but today because of the strike I have had to take an auto and its going to cost me Rs 200 just one way."