Commuters relying on KSRTC services were severely affected on Friday, with bus crew and administrative and workshop staff affiliated to various unions staying away from work, demanding mainly salary hike.
A senior official said no bus operated in Ernakulam district on the day, since employees were peeved that their salary had not been revised during the past 10 years.
Transport Democratic Federation (INTUC) State secretary Aliyar M.I. said employees affiliated to the INTUC and AITUC unions would keep away from work on Saturday as well to register their protest against delay in salary revision. “Trade union leaders had met Transport Minister Antony Raju on October 20 and served strike notice. We planned to go ahead with the strike, since there was no positive response from the Government,” he added.
Trade unions are also opposed to the formation of K-SWIFT that was mooted early this year, since it would be a prelude to privatising the KSRTC. “Rather, the management must reach out to passengers, probe reasons for low patronage on loss-making routes, and rationalise the operation of bus fleet. We may go for an indefinite strike if our demands are not met,” he said.
Railway sources said most trains recorded more footfall on Friday than on normal days, especially since the KSRTC’s long-distance buses kept off the road. Crew and trains have been kept ready, in case there is a spontaneous increase in demand, they added.
‘Raise bus fare’
In the meantime, private bus operators, who together own three times the number of buses operated by the KSRTC, have decided to go ahead with their indefinite strike from November 9, demanding that the State Government increase bus fare to a minimum of ₹12 and ₹1 for every additional kilometre, considering that the price of diesel had gone up from ₹64 to over ₹90 over an 18-month period.
The other demands include fixing of minimum travel fare of students at ₹6 from the present ₹1 and half the regular fare for more distance travelled.
“The confederation of 13 bus operator organisations decided to go ahead with the indefinite strike, since the State Government has turned a blind eye to the massive increase in operational cost during the past 18 months owing to fuel price hike,” said T. Gopinathan, general secretary, All Kerala Private Bus Operators’ Organisation.
“Transport Minister Antony Raju had promised steps to see us out of the red when bus operators met him in July, when diesel price was ₹82 per litre. Even post the week’s fall in fuel price, its price has fallen to only the rate that was in vogue in October. The tariff for all services, including the KSRTC’s BOND services, is higher than that for regular services on different routes,” he added.