BEST Strike: High Court Warns Of Appropriate Orders On Tuesday If Stir Isn’t Resolved
Commuters board a bus outside Kurla railway station in Mumbai. (PhotographerDhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

BEST Strike: High Court Warns Of Appropriate Orders On Tuesday If Stir Isn’t Resolved

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The striking Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking workers' union and the Maharashtra government Monday failed to reach an agreement before the Bombay High Court to end the stir.

The high court on Monday said it would pass appropriate orders on Tuesday on the seven-day-old BEST bus strike if the union and state authorities failed to end the deadlock.

A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice NM Jamdar also said "things cannot continue as they are”.

The bench on Monday directed the high power committee, constituted by the Maharashtra government last week to negotiate with the striking union, to submit a report in a sealed cover clarifying its views on some of the urgent demands of the union.

The bench has been urging the union, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the state government and BEST undertaking to resolve issues in a "congenial environment" and ensure minimum inconvenience to the public.

Over 32,000 employees of the BEST are on strike since Tuesday last week and 3,700 buses in its fleet are off the roads.

Also read: Maharashtra Chief Minister, Shiv Sena To Find A Solution To End BEST Bus Strike

The high court has been hearing, since last week, a PIL filed by lawyer Datta Mane urging the court to pass interim orders directing BEST workers to call off the strike immediately.

Following the high court's intervention, the state government constituted a committee headed by the chief secretary and held meetings with the union and all other stakeholders.

On Monday, the state and the BMC told the bench that while they had proposed several solutions to resolve the issues being faced by the BEST workers, the union was still adamant on not withdrawing the strike.

Appearing for the state, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni reiterated before the bench that the strike was "illegal" in view of the state's laws on essential services and a previous order of the industrial court in the city.

"... the union has made its point by calling the strike and all authorities concerned, including this court, have taken a serious note of their demand,” Kumbhakoni said. “Therefore, the strike must now be called off and the union must enter into negotiations with the committee with an open mind."

Also read: BEST Buses Stay Off Road As Staffers Go On Indefinite Strike

The union's counsel Neeta Karnik, however, told the bench that the workers were most concerned about the pay grade of around 15,000 junior-level employees who earn less than Rs 15,000 per month.

And they would think about going back to work only if they were convinced that the authorities were going to address the issue on a priority basis, Karnik told the court.

The advocate general and the BMC's counsel Anil Sakhre told the bench on Monday that the authorities were ready to look into the grievance surrounding the pay scale of the junior level employees subject to the strike being called off.

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