Calling off their eight-day-old strike, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) workers resumed work on Wednesday afternoon.
The BEST Sanyukta Kamgar Kruti Samiti, a joint committee of many labour unions, called off the strike, longest in recent years, after agreeing to a ‘10-step salary increment’ plan with effect from January 2019 and appointment of a retired HC judge to negotiate terms between the union and the BEST management. On Wednesday, while hearing a PIL filed by lawyer Datta Mane against the “illegal” strike, the Bombay High Court, on the consent of all parties, appointed Justice F I Rebello, retired Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court and former judge of the Bombay High Court, as the mediator in the case. Earlier on Wednesday, BEST workers had informed the HC that the strike would be called off by 1.30 pm.
BEST workers’ union general secretary Shashank Rao told The Indian Express that employees who joined in 2007 at low salaries will be given a hike of Rs 6,000-7,000. He said the increment will start from this month’s salary. Employees drawing Rs 15,000-16,000 per month will now get at least Rs 22,000.
The BEST Sanyukta Kamgar Kruti Samiti had called the strike demanding more wages and over concerns of employee housing. More than 32,000 workers participated in the strike, with 3,200-odd buses staying off roads since January 7. During the strike, BEST suffered losses of more than Rs 27 crore.
On Tuesday, a high-powered committee appointed by the HC had suggested that after the strike was called off, as an interim measure, a ‘10-step salary increment’ plan for BEST employees would be implemented in a time-bound manner. It also said that BEST should undertake modernisation but without remove any employee.
On Wednesday, Neeta Karnik, lawyer for the BEST union, suggested to the HC a 15-step increment plan instead of 10.
Senior counsel M P Rao, representing BEST, said that the plan was a goodwill gesture from the employer towards the employees but BEST will have to make arrangements for Rs 80 crore for it.
Chief Justice Naresh H Patil and Justice N M Jamdar said it was the committee’s interim measure and that it should “start the 10-step increment and then further negotiate with the BEST management. Chief Justice Patil said, “As you (Karnik) said, BMC is wealthy, they will show its greatness.”