Chennai residents struggling to deal with the water shortage in the city must now deal with a new problem - a strike by 23,000 transport workers that will affect the 3,200 government-run public buses that run on the city's roads. The striking workers allege that their salaries for the month of June have either not been paid or not been paid in full; some allege that their pay has been cut by 60 per cent.
The Tamil Nadu government, however, says no salaries have been cut and claims that nearly two-thirds of the employees have already been paid in full. The rest will be paid today, the government added. The state government has blamed banks being shut over the weekend for the delay in salaries being paid.
"A rumour has triggered the strike. We manage on rotation of funds. Due to weekend only sixty percent of cash was sent to bank. We would send the rest today and all will get full salary," a senior official told NDTV.
The strike is likely to inconvenience the school-, college- and office-going crowd and increase pressure on local trains and the Chennai Metro, as well as lead to a greater demand for auto rickshaws and app-based taxi services.
"My regular bus from Tiruvanmiyur to Nungambakkam did not operate today. I took a bus to Mylapore and took an auto to my college. There are poor students who solely depend on bus passes with no money and how would they reach college or return home?" M Megha, a final-year graduate student in a city college told NDTV.
"This is unfair. None thinks about the plight of public," she added.
Wage-related issues led to a prolonged state-wide strike by transport workers in January last year. The eight-day strike coincided with the Pongal harvest festival season and caused significant hardship to both daily commuters and people relying on bus services for travel within the state.
Last year's strike was called by the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC), whose workers had ties to the opposition DMK and the Left. The unions struck over wage revision and demanded a pay increase of 2.57 per cent compared to the 2.44 per cent offered by the government. The AIADMK-backed union, besides some others, had not participated in the protests.
The strike was called off after intervention by the Madras High Court.
The Tamil Nadu government operates a fleet of more than 22,500 buses and employs at least 1.4 lakh people. Chennai accounts for more than a third of all buses in that fleet.