Transport employees launch indefinite strike in K’taka

Bengaluru: Employees of state-owned Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation today launched an indefinite strike to press for their salary hike demand, affecting normal life across the state including the IT capital here.

Around 150 buses were damaged in stone pelting allegedly by sections of agitators reported in Hassan, Bengaluru, Ramanagara, Belagavi, Shivamogga, Koppal and Chikkamagaluru, police said.

Office goers, patients and passengers had to bear the brunt with no buses plying on roads in Bengaluru, as also elsewhere in the state.

Over one lakh employees of four state transport corporations are on strike since last midnight with around 41 demands, prominent among them being a 35 per cent hike in salaries, while the state government has offered a 10 per cent increase.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Chief Minister Siddaramaiah along with officials, Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy said, “Let them call off the strike and come, after that we can hold discussion…we are sympathetic to a few demands like inter corporation transfer and others….”

Also clarifying that government had no plans to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on striking employees, Reddy said, “We want this to get settled in a cordial atmosphere, because even after the strike we all have to work together. We don’t want to have any rub with them.”

About the 35 per cent wage hike demand, he said already 49 per cent of BMTC’s revenue is spent towards paying salaries to the workers while in KSRTC it was 47.5 per cent.

“If we increase it by 10 per cent, it will further increase. We are giving most part of our revenue to salaries,” Reddy said.

The minister along with the officials will have another round of review meeting with the chief minister tomorrow.

Siddaramaiah also appealed to the employees to call off the strike and come for discussion.

KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation General Secretary and All India Trade Union Congress leader H V Anantha Subbarao held the state government and Chief Minister responsible and called them “insensitive”.

“We had given notice weeks ago about going on strike, still they did not take steps. Only two or three days ago they showed seriousness. Even now we are ready for discussion if chief minister calls us for meeting. Wage issue is important to us,” Subbarao said.

Though transport officials said alternative arrangements were being made by giving temporary contract carriage to private operators during the strike, they clearly fell short of demand. Complaints of them overcharging were heard from across the state.

Authorities in a few districts have declared holidays for schools and colleges for both today and tomorrow.