Days after a reduction in minimum fare enhanced the ridership of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses by up to 50 per cent, BEST workers’ unions have warned of an indefinite strike over allegedly not fulfilling assurances given by the BEST administration to the unions. The BEST labour unions have demanded a new wage agreement, saying the last one had lapsed in 2016.
“Union has served notice to the administration for the strike. If the negotiations fail, BEST employees will go on strike,” the BEST Workers Union said.
Shashank Rao, leader of the union, said, “In the MoU (agreed between the BEST administration and the unions), the union has given a go-ahead for hiring private buses on a wet-lease model. BEST and BMC had assured to start negotiations about wage agreement, besides giving remaining 10-step hike to junior grade employees, but it is not yet fulfilled.”
Rao further said BEST and BMC had signed an MoU with unions, but it is ignoring the assurance of negotiations for the wage agreement. Rao also said that the union has sent four reminders to the BEST administration regarding fulfilling the commitments made under the MoU.
Currently, BEST ferries over 25 lakh commuters daily with a fleet of 3,200 buses. In the past fortnight, the number of passengers travelling on BEST buses has gone up by around 8 lakh after BEST reduced its minimum ticket fare from Rs 8 to Rs 5 for non-Ac buses.
As per the MoU, which was signed on June 11, 2019, between the union, BEST, and BMC, it was mentioned that BEST will maintain its current bus fleet, which is 3,337 buses. Though BEST has reduced fares and also started the process of wet-leasing, other pending demands of employees are yet to be fulfilled.