Bus strike hits 50 lakh commuters

Commuters were hit hard by a strike called by employees of Tamil Nadu state transport corporations on Thursday night.- Bijoy Ghosh

Commuters were hit hard by a strike called by employees of Tamil Nadu state transport corporations on Thursday night.- Bijoy Ghosh

Ten trade unions had announced launching the indefinite strike yesterday after their talks with the government over a key demand on a "factor" determining wage structure failed.

Sounderrajan, who held discussions with other trade unions, including the DMK-backed Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) today, urged the government to hold talks to settle the issue amicably, even as he expressed regret over difficulties caused to commuters following the strike.

As the strike entered the second day on Friday crippling operation of the eight transport corporation running about 21,000 buses, the first bench of the High Court headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee ordered the workers to resume work or face the outcome including termination and contempt of court. Only office goers and others who had important work within the city actually stepped out.

Further, seven unions joined the strike today, taking the number to 17, he told reporters here.

Soundararajan said that the workers resorted to strike as the government went ahead with signing wage agreement without talks concluding.

General Secretary of DMK-backed LPF, M Shanmugam, said they were not anxious about action from the government since any protest would attract action. Transport minister M R Vijayabhaskar said the government agreed to enhance the wage by 2.44%.

However, the unions said they had not received the High Court's order, adding that the court had not heard their side, PTI reported.

Meanwhile, the Southern Railway, in an official release, said, "It is chose to operate weekday services instead of weekend reduced services in Chennai Beach-Tambaram and MRTS suburban sector to accommodate extra rush in view of the strike".

Buses were being operated in some parts of the state with temporary drivers and conductors.

"This is what you get when you just bring anyone to drive a bus, which is a specialised job", said C. Muthukumaran, a driver working with the PTC in Chennai, on the incident.

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

The strike started on Thursday night after a meeting between union representatives and State transport minister MR Vijaybhaskar remained inconclusive.

Private bus operators were also finding it hard as they were not aware of the routes and where to stop.

Following the strike, commuters alleged over-charging by autos and private buses even as many opted for suburban rail services in Chennai.

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