The employees of the private bus operators in BEST on Tuesday afternoon announced their decision to call off their strike claiming that Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has assured them of fulfilling their salary hike and other demands.
The move by the contractual staffers will provide relief to lakhs of bus commuters as the agitation had entered 7th day on Tuesday morning with 551 of the 1,600 buses wet-leased by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) going off roads.
A representative of the contractual employees told mediapersons at Azad Maidan that their delegation met CM Shinde after midnight on Monday. Shinde assured that the demands of the agitating employees would be fulfilled, the representative said.
The delegation was led by Pradnya Khajurkar, wife of contractual worker Raghunath Khajurkar, an employee of Daga group. “Our primary demands about salary hike, bonus, leaves and free bus rides have been accepted. Hence the strike has been called off,” said Vikas Kharmale, cordinator of a group of employees of private bus operators.
The employees, including drivers, of the private bus operators had stayed off roads over demands, including salary hikes and pay parity with BEST employees. Notably, Mumbai guardian minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha on Monday said the affected BEST bus services will be restored in the next 24 to 48 hours.
The BEST undertaking, which provides public bus services in Mumbai and neighbouring areas, has hired more than 1,600 buses from some contractors on a wet lease model, under which the vehicle ownership, maintenance, fuel and driver costs are the responsibility of the private operator.
The public transport body ferries more than 30 lakh commuters on its buses in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane, Navi Mumbai and Mira-Bhayander cities with its fleet of more than 3,100 buses, of which it owns less than 1,400 buses.