Workers of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, or KSRTC, began an indefinite strike this morning, demanding wage revisions. The Karnataka government has said it will not be meeting their demands, while appealing to the employees not to go on strike.
Chandrashekar, state president of KSRTC Employees League, told NDTV, "Our main demand is to implement the sixth pay commission for state transport employees."
"We want what the government assured us of last December. The minister is not agreeing to give the sixth pay commission. But we are also not leaving. We need the sixth pay commission. We will not call off the strike till that assurance comes."
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa called on striking employees to get back to work. He also alleged that "selfish motives" of some people were behind the strike. "We have fulfilled 8 of their (workers') nine demands, despite this they are adamant and have stopped buses, and are creating trouble for the public. I appeal to them, get back to work, we can talk," Mr Yedirurappa said.
Asked if the government will invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), he said, "we are discussing everything, depending on the situation, we will take appropriate decisions."
Bus commuters have been affected due to the strike, with many taken by surprise.
Saurav, a student of digital marketing, told NDTV, "I didn't know about the strik. That is why I came to the bus stand. I will have to go by auto now. Loss for me."
Another person, Moses, was worried about not getting to work on time. He said, "We are very uncomfortable and it is very bad because we cannot go to work on time. It is very difficult for us to travel long distance."
Private buses and autos are on the road, but these are more expensive options.
A young woman commuter, Vishalakshi, said, "It is so difficult to travel from one place to another. The private bus we are getting is taking more money. All are facing problems to get to work."
Another woman, Vinitha, said, "I have to go from Ramamurthy Nagar to Tin Factory and it is Rs. 10 by bus. But the auto driver will ask for Rs. 100. It is a very uncomfortable feeling and we had no information (about the bus employees' strike)."
Shivayogi Kalasad, Managing Director of KSRTC, told NDTV, "(Employees) have disrupted their work and not reported for work since morning. The entire state of Karnataka has around 24,000 bus fleet strength. The major demands put forth by the employees pertain to working conditions which by and large have already been addressed. But the other demand was to consider their salary on par with the state government's sixth pay commission. The government has examined this proposal and come to the conclusion that this particular demand cannot be met with. However, the government is ready to increase their salary to the extent possible."
He said action will be taken against employees if they don't report to work by a date that will be given.
Due to the surge in Covid numbers in Karnataka, protests and sit-ins are not being permitted. The employees had gone on strike a few months ago as well. KSRTC employs around 1.3 lakh people.
(With inputs from PTI)