With the employees of road transport corporations set to go on a strike on wage related issues from April 7, the Karnataka government on Tuesday warned of strict action and ruled out any negotiations with them. Noting that most of the demands made by the employees have been addressed despite financial constraints due to COVID-19, the government made it clear that their demand for implementation of the sixth pay commission report for the Road Transport Corporation workers cannot be fulfilled.
The government has also made alternate arrangements by roping in private transport operators aimed at addressing inconvenience caused to the public, due to the strike, officials said. "Transport employees have given a call to go on strike from tomorrow, the Chief Minister held a discussion in this regard, we are requesting employees not to go on strike keeping COVID-19 situation in mind.
They had nine demands, eight of them have been fulfilled and implemented," Chief Secretary P Ravi Kumar said. Addressing reporters after meeting with the Chief Minister, he said their demand for implementation of the sixth pay commission report, and thereby give them the salary on par with the government employees, cannot be accepted.
"It cannot be given to transport employees," he said, however, the transport minister after discussion has agreed for an 8 per cent increase in salary as an interim relief, but it cannot be implemented immediately as the model code of conduct is in place and a letter has been sent to the Election Commission seeking permission. Workers of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) and North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC), under the banner of Karnataka State Road Transport Employees League have given a call for strike from April 7.
The protest is against the governments failure to implement a salary under the 6th Pay Commission for the RTC workers. Observing that so far pay revision used to take place for transport employees once in four years after discussion with them, Kumar claimed that for government employees pay commission implementation takes place after five or six years, some time 10 years also.
Due to COVID-19 situation, lockdown and decline in number of passengers the transport corporations had no proper income and yet the state government ensured payment for staff on time, by spending Rs 2,100 crore, he said. Pointing out that the Transport Minister and the Chief Minister have made an appeal, as the strike will cause problems for the public, the Chief Secretary said to address the situation the transport department will take measures.
"Private buses, maxi cabs will be left free, they will be allowed to operate in assigned routes. The Transport Commissioner is working on alternate arrangements across the state," he said.
But still there will be some inconvenience, also Railways have been requested for special trains to places like Kalaburagi, Belagavi, Hubballi, Mysuru among others. The CM directed us to deal with the transport strike "strictly", Kumar in response to a question said.
The government is mulling imposing Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). "There will be no more negotiations or talks… still if they go for strike, all the measures that can be taken in the framework of law will be taken.
This is the strict decision taken by the CM and it will be implemented… no work no pay will any ways be there," he said. Warning the employees against damage to buses and public assets in the name of strike, he said such things will be dealt with very seriously.
Citing COVID-19 restrictions in place and a notification already issued under the Disaster Management Act stating that people cannot gather in groups, Kumar said if it is violated, action will be taken. Highlighting the situation faced by public transport corporations, he said 45 lakh passengers used to commute in public transport buses in Bengaluru alone per day, which has now reduced to 20 lakh, and may further go down due to COVID.
"Public transport corporations are facing Rs 4 crore loss per day, the government is filling in for it," he said. Making it clear that action will be initiated against those involved in any kind of instigation, the Chief Secretary said the transport commissioner will take steps to ensure that autos and cabs don't charge exorbitantly, taking advantage of transport strike.
The Transport Commissioner said notification fixing cab and bus fares has already been issued and no once can charge over it. "If we get to know about it, strict action will be taken."