Commuters stranded as bus strike begins

Government and RTC employees harden their stand over salary revision

Most of the State road transport corporation (RTC) buses went off the road from Tuesday night, signalling the start of an indefinite strike mainly over employees’ salary revision demands. The strike, scheduled to start on Wednesday morning began much earlier, hours after the State government ruled out any negotiations, catching commuters unawares.

Buses are expected to mostly stay off the road on Wednesday. Though the strike is spearheaded by the newly formed KSRTC Employees League and other unions have not backed it, the strike is likely to be total, sources said. Though the government has roped in private operators to make alternative arrangements, inconvenience is expected, sources said.

Chief Secretary P. Ravi Kumar ruled out implementation of Sixth Pay Commission, a key demand of the protesters, but announced a 8% uniform salary hike for all RTC employees, which will be implemented after the bypolls or immediately, subject to permission from the Election Commission of India.

Transport Minister Laxman Savadi also promised pay revision after May 4, when the model code of conduct will end. “We have fulfilled seven of the eight demands,” he said.

The government has also warned of “all possible action within the legal framework” against the striking employees, including invoking the Karnataka Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2013. The RTCs have issued “no work, no pay” orders for absentee workers. “We will not negotiate any further,” Mr. Kumar said.

However, the league rejected the offer and said that the government should either declare them as government employees or implement the Sixth Pay Commission as promised. Most employees did not turn up for the night shift on Tuesday.

Kodihalli Chandrashekar, honorary president of the league, came down heavily on the State government for its “strong-arm tactics” to curb protests.

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