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Tuesday, November 13, 2001

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TN transport strike continues

Our Bureau

CHENNAI, Nov. 12

AS the strike by the State transport unit staff enters the fourth day today over the bonus issue with no indication of a solution, the strike by the Electricity Department workers today has indicated the dissatisfaction of the Government employees over the reduced bonus announced this Diwali.

Meanwhile, the State Government has taken a firm stand over the bonus issue to public sector enterprises and undertakings, and has either not announced any bonus or has maintained it at the minimal 8.33 per cent. This has earned it the ire of the employees who have been accustomed to a Diwali gift of about 20 per cent as bonus and ex-gratia over the years.

The State Government has attempted to tackle the transport workers' strike by pressing into service private buses and drivers. Mini buses and private buses could be seen plying the city roads. (According to Government statistics the total numbers of buses run by State Transport Undertakings (STUs) is 14,797 compared to 5672 private buses. The number of spare buses is 1192 in with STUS and 1300 with the private sector.)

According to Mr T.K. Rangarajan, CITU State General Secretary, the Government's attitude is bound to vitiate the employer-employee relationship in the long run.

The Government has taken a political decision in denying the workers the bonus, and further not attempting to settle the issue through negotiations. The Government has opted for a confrontation at a heavy cost to itself, he said. It has not granted bonus to employees of State Government enterprises like Tamil Nadu Mineral Ltd (TAMIN) despite existing agreement under which the workers are eligible to 20 per cent. The cooperative sugar mill workers are also likely to be denied the bonus. In the case of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) it has fixed 8.33 per cent even though there was a budgetary allocation of Rs 59 crore. The Cooperative bank employees are planning to go on strike from Tuesday, he said.

According to Mr A. Soundarajan, CITU, the strike by transport staff was near total with more than 95 per cent of the staff staying away. The Government was incurring a revenue loss of Rs 8 crore per day. Untrained drivers were being press into service, and the numbers of those inducted to tackle the strike was grossly inadequate, he said.

According to Mr Soundarajan, over 35,000 drivers are on the job per shift. The total number of staff needed to tackle a normal day is around 70,000 drivers (two shifts), and including the technical and administrative staff more than 1.5 lakh workers are needed. The Government has taken on about 1000 drivers, he said.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) unions have decided to call off the strike from tomorrow. However, in a press release, it has said that the State Government should consider the unprecedented participation of the Electricity Board employees in the strike, and come out with a favourable response on the bonus issue.

According to Government sources, TNEB workers have not affected power supply on the first day of the strike.

 
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