Tamil Nadu: Govt appeals transport employees to come back for work

Passengers stranded at Mattuthavani bus stands following a flash strike by Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation employees in Madurai on Friday. PTI

Taking a serious view of the strike called by certain transport unions, the Madras High Court on Friday said the workers should get back to work or "face consequences", including termination and contempt of court.

Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar appealed to the unions to return to work. 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.

Arguing on behalf of the state government, counsel Vijay Narayan said that a wage agreement had been signed with the workers. Even though trade unions affiliated to the ruling party did not strike work, most of the buses were parked in all the nine depots in the district.

After the Madras High Court order on Friday, the state government asked them to return to work or face consequences.

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Further, seven unions joined the strike today, taking the number to 17, he told reporters here. Chief Justice Indira Banerjee had said that workers could not go on such sudden strikes without any prior intimation.

General Secretary of DMK-backed LPF, M Shanmugam, said they were not anxious about action from the government since any protest would attract action. "We demanded the transport workers wages to be raised on par with government employees but they did not agree".

However, the unions said they had not received the High Court's order, adding that the court had not heard their side, PTI reported. "More than 50 % of buses are operated in Coimbatore", collector T N Hariharan said.

DMK Working President and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly M K Stalin spoke to Chief Minister K Palaniswami over the phone and urged the government to hold talks with the trade unions to end the stalemate.

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A Soundararajan, leader of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) claimed that only less than 10 percent of buses plied across the state on Friday.

Tamilnadu has a fleet of 22,500 buses, with 1.4 lakh workers in the State's employment.

Ten unions had announced launching the strike on Thursday after collapse of talks on wage revision. 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.

Police were posted at bus depots to prevent any untoward incidents. The strike began on Thursday evening when many bus drivers in Chennai were seen abandoning their buses between 5pm and 8 pm.

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