The BEST bus services will remain suspended on Tuesday as drivers and conductors will abstain from work to protest against the new duty schedule being introduced by the undertaking.
The employees say that their daily work time will increase from eight hours to between nine and 12 hours under the new schedule, which comes into force from April 1.
The new schedule has been worked out by Trapeze, the Canadian firm that has been engaged by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking to help it to rework its systems towards reducing losses. The new schedule is expected to cut losses by Rs32 crore.
The employees unions had threatened to strike work from March 1, when the new schedule was to come into effect. But its implementation was delayed by nearly a month after the industrial court issued a stay order.
Last week, the stay was quashed by the Bombay High Court, which also approved the proposed duty schedule, which will come into effect from April 1, said A S Tamboli, senior BEST spokesperson.
The BEST staff unions argue that the new schedule for drivers and conductors does not factor in the traffic congestion.
"For a staffer on a long route bus, it could take more than an hour and a half to complete a single trip. According to the new chart, even if he has just half an hour of duty to be completed for the day, he would have to make the trip before calling it a day," an employee explained.
For conductors it would be still longer hours, as they are required to report at the depot to tally the accounts before leaving for home. "So, they will be up to nine or ten hours daily," the employee said.
The employees are abstaining from work on grounds of ill health and their protest could affect many of the nearly 40 lakh people who use BEST services daily. According to sources, they will resume work later in the day today.
Asked about the response of the undertaking to the likely protest, a BEST official said services would not be affected. He stressed that strict action would be taken against those employees who did not report to work.