Declaration of the hunger strike comes on the back of BEST workers not being paid on time for nearly half the year.
Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST) unions have declared an indefinite hunger strike starting August 1. They are demanding that they be absorbed into the Brihanmumbai Munic-ipal Corporation (BMC). The decision was taken when unions constituting the BEST joint workers’ committee met Friday afternoon. Declaration of the hunger strike comes on the back of BEST workers not being paid on time for nearly half the year.
A few union leaders will begin the strike from August 1 as decided, but nearly 20,000 workers will take up fasting in phases of 24 hours. Around 97 per cent workers had voted for the strike on July 19 via ballot held near Parel. However, unions said they would go for an all-out strike as last option and in the event there was absolutely no response from BMC.
Union leader Shashank Rao said, “The BMC in its budget this year has earmarked Rs 230 crore for the education department. The same goes for health and so many other departments. Then where is the BEST in all of this? Are we not a part of the BMC?” As per a statement issued by the union, according to the BMC Act 1888, BEST and therefore all of its employees are part of the municipal corporation.
BEST sources said that the unions were playing it smart and by demanding that they be absorbed into the BMC, their salaries would then have to be directly paid by the civic body and not the transport undertaking.
BEST has also been repaying a Rs 250 crore loan (with interest) that the BMC granted last year. This year, BEST including the management and public representatives have demanded that the loan be interest-free and no penalties be charged by BMC if BEST is unable to pay it back within the financial year. The panel that came to the decision includes eight unions, including the BWU, BEST Kamgar Sena, Samarth BEST Kamgar Sanghatana, BJP BEST Kamgar Sangh, BEST Kamgar Union and BEST Kamgar Sanghatana.