Mumbai: The BEST Workers’ Union on Wednesday agreed to call off their strike after accepting the 10-step hike formula offered by the high-power committee appointed by the state government.
The committee has offered to give 15,000 BEST employees the 10-step increment from this month itself. The increase, however, will be implemented subject to the fact that the strike is called off, the BEST’s counsel told the Bombay High Court bench.
On Wednesday, the Union demanded a 15-step increment before the court which was not accepted by the committee as an immediate measure. The court then asked the union to accept the 10-step increment as an interim relief and discuss the rest in the meetings.
The BEST workers’ union’s counsel Neeta Karnik said this was agreeable to employees but they want an independent mediator to resolve the issues. To this, the Bombay High Court has appointed a retired high court justice as a mediator to look into the employees’ demands and settle all outstanding disputes.
“The mediator shall, within a period of three months, discuss demands put forth by the employees, like 20-step pay hike, merger of BEST and BMC budgets, and so on,” the court said in its order.
The BEST union and its management then agreed to have retired high court justice F I Rebello as the mediator.
A division bench headed by chief justice Naresh Patil has been hearing a PIL filed last week by advocate Datta Mane. The petitioner had sought a court intervention to end the strike.
Shashank Rao, president of BEST Union, while announcing the withdrawal of the strike, said, “It is our victory. I'm grateful that the high court has given justice to workers. We will ensure that all our demands are met one after the other with the help of judiciary. The strike was a success as we have been assured a pay hike.”
“These are terms of reference in which discussions need to happen. There has been some development that is positive. Also, the main issue about why BEST is running into losses should also be looked into. There should be proper deliberation and discussion, now that a mediator has been appointed (sic),” the court said.
The union had earlier expressed their concern before the court that their demands weren’t met in several years by the management. “The disparity in salary hurts. The BMC has agreed to give 590 crore to BEST. But it doesn’t want to accept it and wants the undertaking to run in losses so that employees continue to suffer. We hope things change,” the counsel representing the union told the court.
The BEST management assured the court that all points raised by the high power committee will be taken into consideration and stated that the union should be ready to discuss all issues with an open mind.
Around 32,000 BEST workers were on strike since January 8 over their various demands, including pay hike, revision of pay scale of junior level employees and merger of BEST’s budget with that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).