Workers Win: BEST Union General Secretary Shashank Rao ends strike

BEST had a revenue loss during the nine-day-long strike of ₹27 crore

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The Brihamumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Workers Union General Secretary Shashank Rao on Wednesday afternoon ended the nine-day long strike providing relief to Mumbaikars. The union leader announced the same while addressing the BEST workers at Wadala bus depot. 

More than 32,000 BEST employees were on strike since January 7 midnight and it was the first longest BEST bus strike in the history. With Maharashtra government earlier imposing Maharashtra Essential Services Management Act (MESMA) on BEST employees and BEST administration directing them to vacate their houses, the workers had no choice but to fight their battle. 

Earlier, many attempts of negotiations between BEST union and the establishment derived no solution to end the strike. However, the Bombay High Court played an important role in mediating between the agitated workers and the administration. 

The BEST union accepted 10-steps pay hike during the hearing of a petition filed in Bombay High Court against the strike. Rao agreed to resolve other demands through a mediator and officially ended the strike after taking “consent” from the workers. Earlier in the day, Bombay HC appointed a committee headed by a retired judge which will submit its report, in three months, proposing solutions to resolve the pending issues put forward by the BEST union. 

BEST workers’ demands included the merger of BEST budget with that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) so that the civic body can take full liability of the cash-strapped public transport organisation. The union demanded ‘master-grade’ for the 14,000 junior grade employees, recruited in the year 2007. Followed by other demands related to the recruitment and payment of bonus.

While addressing the workers at Wadala Bus Depot, the union leader expressed his gratitude to 25 lakh Mumbaikars who had to suffer because of the strike. Rao informed that the salary of BEST employees will observe the hike by at least ₹7,000, effective from February 2019. The union leader slammed Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray saying that he had planned to sabotage BEST and its workers. 

Earlier, the high-level committee appointed by Maharashtra government had submitted a report denying the hike in BEST workers salary and their demand to merge the budget. Rao said that the report was similar to “death certificate” for the workers. 

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