TN Bus strike: Transport minister appeals employees to join duty

Office-goers stranded at a bus terminus in Chennai on Friday as employees of Tamil Nadu state transport corporations went on strike from Thursday night - Bijoy Ghosh

"The new wage structure had the highest revision proposed with a minimum of Rs2,684 and a maximum of Rs11,361. hope the employees get back to work", the minister said. He cautioned that temporary workers roped in by the government to operate buses in lieu of striking workers is quite unsafe and puts the life of commuters at risk. "The 2.57 factor (a wage determination technique) is our demand and talks should be held for that", he said.

After the Madras High Court order on Friday, the state government asked them to return to work or face consequences. "Recourse to lighting strikes or flash strikes without notice leads to the consequences of denying the citizens of their right to free movement and is clearly illegal and against the public interest", the judge said while passing interim orders on a PIL filed in this regard.

The striking unions, immediately grabbed the opportunity to take a pot shot at the government's move. If the government takes action, the employees must face it.

Transport union leaders said they will challenge the court order, which they said is one-sided as they were not heard.

Responding to the government warning of action, Sounderrajan said it did not befit the former and insisted that it should opt for talks to end the stalemate. Transport minister M R Vijayabhaskar said the government agreed to enhance the wage by 2.44%.

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DMK working president MK Stalin urged chief minister Edapaddi Palaniswami to end the imbroglio by holding talks with the unions and giving them a "good Pongal gift".

Officials said buses were being run by utilising services of workers affiliated to ruling AIADMK-backed union ATP.

The strike, following the failure of talks on wage revision and clearance of pending dues with Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar, was declared on Thursday.

However, reports received here said a large number of vehicles were off the road in different parts of the state like Chennai, Villupuram, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Madurai. The trade unions, however, stood their ground, turning defensive while the government jumped got into firefighting mode, roping in temporary drivers and conductors to tide over the crisis. Besides, private buses were also roped in to meet the situation at several places.

To give some relief to the passengers few buses including the private ones hired on the contract were operated by the government with police protection to prevent any untoward incidents.

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