15,000 BEST staff absent from duty get no salary for May

BEST officials maintain that the cut is justified because BEST was responsible for ferrying essential service providers and frontline workers during the crisis, and therefore, staff were expected to be diligent and regular.

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More than 15,000 Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) staffers have received no salary for the month of May in lieu of the days they were absent from work since March, during the COVID crisis and the lockdown that followed.

While the employees’ union has revealed its intention to contest the pay cut, BEST officials maintain that the pay cut is justified.

The management had sent departmental chargesheets to over 1,000 BEST drivers and conductors, as well as 700 employees from the power-supply division for absenting themselves from duty, for 15 days to over two months.

An internal circular had apparently warned the employees of strict action if they failed to report for duty. As per government directives, it was the responsibility of BEST to ferry frontline workers, and those employed with essential service providers, as well as citizens travelling to quarantine centres and migrants to railway stations. Therefore, BEST staff cannot afford to be absent from work.

Officials pointed out that while there were BEST employees residing in far-off locations who made it to work, despite restrictions and risks, there were many who failed to show up for work for many days, even though they were residing in staff quarters within the city. Therefore, it would be unfair to the sincere and regular lot if the ones who failed to report for duty were to be let off without being penalised.

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