Chennai: The Madras High Court on Friday ordered Tamil Nadu transport workers on a strike to return to work as commuters struggled across the state with thousands of buses off the roads. Hundreds of passengers were seen waiting at bus stands as only a third of the buses served Chennai and other places in the state over the workers' demand of a pay hike.
Twelve unions went on a strike after they said that talks with the state transport minister did not result in any breakthrough yesterday.
Commuters across the state were caught off guard as both local and long distance government buses stopped services early last evening even while talks were still going on. Around 2 crore commuters use bus services across Tamil Nadu.
Transport workers are demanding salaries on par with drivers in other state government corporations. The unions want a 2.57 per cent hike but the government is willing to increase salaries only by 2.44 per cent.
Tamil Nadu has a fleet of 22,500 buses, with 1.4 lakh workers in the state's employment. Chennai accounts for a large share of this with 3,500 buses in the city. Today's strike has taken about 15,000 buses off the roads in Tamil Nadu.
A Soundararajan, a Centre of Indian Trade Union leader, told NDTV, "We don't want to subject the public to hardship but the government is pushing us. It doesn't want to treat us equally as drivers in other departments. Is our demand unfair? We are not responsible for transport corporations running on losses."
The government said it is holding talks with non-union drivers and by the evening they expect to bring in a large number of buses. Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar called the strike politically motivated by opposition parties.
Actor Kamal Haasan asked Chief Minister E Palaniswami to resolve the stalemate at the earliest. "Chief Minister ought to kindly hold talks with transport workers. He should have in mind public hardship and just demands of transport workers. That would be a priceless Pongal gift," he said.