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No Resolution Reached Before HC, BEST Strike to Continue in Mumbai on Day 8

The union has been demanding revision in employees’ wages, grades and also merger of BEST budget with the BMC budget.

Radhika Ramaswamy | CNN-News18

Updated:January 14, 2019, 10:26 PM IST

Mumbai: Despite a day-long hearing before the Bombay High Court, no resolution was reached to end the strike called by BEST employees a week ago.

After hearing the workers, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), BEST and the State, the court asked to hold another round of talks between the state-appointed high power committee and the BEST workers union on Tuesday. Post meeting, they have been asked to submit a report before the court. The court said that it is up to the workers' union to call off the strike.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Naresh Patil was hearing a PIL filed to end the strike.

On Friday too, the court had asked all the parties to hold meetings and come to a consensus.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbakoni informed the court that despite the committee assuring the workers union that they will look into the issue of wages and merger in the meetings, the union is not ready to call off the strike.

“We held meetings. They have made their point by going on strike for so many days. We have taken their demands seriously and are looking into it. Their demands will be looked into on priority but the strike should be called off.”

The counsels representing both BEST and BMC informed the court that it is unfair to ‘threaten’ the administration and ‘hold a gun on their heads’ and demanded time. "It is illegal to hold such a strike. It is a violation of Supreme Court orders. Lives of 25 lakh commuters are impacted because of this,” the counsels said.

The division bench while pulling up the striking workers said that the court had created a platform last week for the workers union and administration to discuss the issue and arrive at a solution.

“There is nothing in sight except inconvenience to people. There must be a comprehensive talk and solution. The strike is illegal and the committee has not come up with an outcome yet. Both ways, there is no understanding or solution,” Patil said.

The counsel for workers union informed the court that the talks are not yielding a result. “There is no relief or offer from the side of BEST or BMC. 50% of staffers are heavily underpaid. They get less than Rs 15,000 as salary. How will these workers survive with this pittance? BMC gets 5,000 crore as interest but still they are not willing to provide for BEST,” the lawyer said. She also added that the resolution to merge BEST budget with BMC budget was passed a year and a half ago but nothing happened after that as the state government is yet to look into it.

Patil asked the state to look at the demands on an urgent basis. “The committee should function properly and bring a solution. Let the committee meet the union tomorrow once again. We need the report of the meetings post lunch. Workers union must decide on the strike soon,” added Patil. The PIL will continue to be heard tomorrow.

Shashank Rao, president of BEST workers union, said, “We are grateful to the Bombay HC to have given us a detailed hearing. We did not have a choice but to go on strike as the administration was turning a blind eye to our demands for many years. I hope tomorrow there will be a solution in sight. Till then the strike will continue.”

The union has been demanding revision in employees’ wages, grades and also merger of BEST budget with the BMC budget.

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