More than 48,000 employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) were dismissed by the Telangana government as they had gone on an indefinite strike. The dismissal was announced following the chief minister’s meeting with RTC officials. Only about 1200 employees were spared, as they had either not joined the strike or had resumed work before the deadline given by the Government to call off the strike.
The state-wide strike called by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) representing all RTC employees’ unions was to last till the demands of the employees had been met. Since 5 October, about 49,340 staff members had been on strike, following which several union leaders were taken into custody for a little while. Even though the chief minister had threatened to terminate almost 50,000 workers, the agitation continued with even opposition parties offering their support.
The agitation arose when the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh announced that the over 50,000 employees of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation will be considered at par with the state government employees. As a result, the employees’ unions in Telangana started expressing their discontentment at the promises made, before Telangana became a state, still remaining unfulfilled. They now allege that the corporation has been totally neglected after Telangana attained statehood. Apparently it was promised that the RTC employees will be given wages at par with the employees of the Central Government. They also allege that no steps have been taken to help the RTC out of the financial crisis it has been facing. Any attempt to make their demands heard were always quelled through some compromise in the past couple of years.
The unions had presented a list of 26 demands, for which the state government has asked for more time, which the unions feel is just a tactic to delay action, so that operations are not affected during the festive season.
One of the demands is to merge TSRTC with the state government, while the other demands concentrate on making RTC profitable. The unions are also asking the state government to clear all pending dues. They are also demanding the abolition of the Motor Vehicles tax, and that the burden of diesel costs be brought down. They suggest that at least one per cent of the state budget be set aside for the improvement of TSRTC. The employees are also asking for a salary hike, as their last increment was three years back. Among other demands are maternity benefits, filling of vacancies, basic job security, and also new buses.
The agitated workers have tried to highlight that the TSRTC should be treated as a public service provider and not as a profit-making body.
However, instead of giving in to their demands, the chief minister sacked all the employees that did not turn up for work before the deadline to call off the strike expired. He has also conveyed that new staff will be appointed to take the place of the sacked staff. The unions are now threatening to go to court.