K’taka govt talks tough ahead of RTCs indefinite strike

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K’taka govt talks tough ahead of RTCs indefinite strike

Bengaluru: Taking a tough stand, the Karnataka government on Tuesday ruled out any negotiations with various Road Transport Corporations employees deciding to go on an indefinite strike from Wednesday, demanding that their salaries be increased in accordance with the sixth pay commission recommendations.

The employees of four different state run road transport corporations have been demanding that the state government bring them under the government employees category in order to receive the benefits of pay commissions in the future too. They had gone on a four-day strike in December last year with the same demand.

After a detailed discussion with Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa, Chief Secretary P. Ravikmar told reporters that there is no question of treating RTC employees like other state government employees and implementing the sixth pay commission.

“The government has instead finalised a pay hike of eight per cent to RTC employees which we are ready to implement, but because of the model code of conduct in force due to the bypolls, we have not implemented this,” he said.

The Chief Secretary claimed that he has already written to the Election Commission of India seeking its permission to implement the pay hike in light of the proposed indefinite strike from April 7.

“If the ECI permits, the pay hike will be implemented immediately. If not, after the bypolls. But for this we have decided there will be no negotiation and the strike will be dealt with strictly. The Chief Minister is clear on this,” he said.

In response to a question, Kumar also dropped enough hints about enforcing the Essential Services Management Act (ESMA). “We are exploring ‘every possible action within the legal framework’ against the striking employees,” he warned.

According to him, all the four transport corporations were reeling under severe losses already due to the reduction in ridership since last year due to the pandemic. “All RTCs combined, the government is incurring a loss of Rs 4 crore every day. The government had provided Rs 2,100 crore in the last one year to these RTCs and ensured all employees were paid salaries on time without any pay cut. We appeal to RTC employees to be considerate and not go on strike,” the chief secretary said.

To minimize the strike impact, he stated that all alternate arrangements including appealing to the railways to run special trains and allowing private buses, maxi cabs to run routes, will be made to mitigate the inconvenience to the public.

Deputy Chief Minister Lakshman Savadi, who holds the Transport portfolio, told reporters that the demand for a salary hike as per the recommendations of the sixth pay commission needs a detailed discussion.

“This will put an additional burden of Rs 3,800 crore for next four years on the corporations at a time when the revenue is not sufficient to pay for existing salaries and fuel. Therefore, employees must take considerate view on calling the indefinite strike,” he said.

The Karnataka transport department has about 37,019 workers. It runs a fleet of 17,138 buses through four separate transport corporations — Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), North East Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC), North West Road Transport Corporation (NWRTC) and Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC).

When the employees of all four corporations had gone on strike in December 2020 for four days, bus services across Karnataka had been severely affected.

Thousands of striking drivers and conductors of KSRTC were joined by those from BMTC, NEKRTC and NWKRTC at Bengaluru’s Freedom Park.

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