Mumbai: BEST employees call off record 9-day-long strike

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Mumbai: BEST employees call off record 9-day-long strike
Mumbai: BEST employees call off record 9-day-long strike

Mumbai : Following a sharp rap by the Bombay High Court, the BrihanMumbai Electric Supply & Transport (BEST) employees on Wednesday evening called off their record 9-day-long strike after its demands were partially conceded.

Announcing the withdrawal of the agitation that had created chaos for around three million-plus daily bus commuters and students, the BEST Sanyukta Kamgar Kruti Samiti (BSKKS) chief Shashank Rao announced at a union meeting that the buses would start rolling on the roads with immediate effect.

The first bus zoomed out of the Wadala Bus Depot with scores of waiting commuters cheering and making a beeline for it around 4 pm, with millions elsewhere in the city, suburbs, adjoining Raigad and Thane districts following suit.

The decision to end the strike came after the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the BEST - which runs the city's public bus services - agreed to appoint a retired high court chief justice to negotiate with the employees' unions.

Earlier on Tuesday, the BEST had bowed before the BSKKS and conceded to nominally increase the basic pay packet of around 15,000 employees with effect from January 2019.

Rao said the last wage settlement with the employees ended in 2016, but the BEST did not take any further measures necessitating the strike.

Over three million commuters were badly hit by the strike of over 30,000 employees operating the 2,480 strong fleet, amidst moves to "privatise" the severely bleeding BEST.

The indefinite strike since January 8 is for the main demands of the employees, including merger of the annual budgets of the cash-rich BMC with the loss-making BEST, revised wage agreements with effect from April 2016, including provisions for implementing the 7th Pay Commission recommendation.

The other demands included making salary slabs of over 14,000 junior staffers who have been underpaid since 2011 at par with regular employees in the same pay-scale, resumption of compassionate appointments, and bonuses at par with the BMC staffers.

Founded in 1873 as a tram service, the BEST is reportedly sitting on a massive loss of around Rs 2,500 crore in the past few years after it was hit by developments like the Mumbai Metro, Monorail, augmentation of cabs, rising fuel and operating costs and other factors.