Mumbaikars can heave a sigh of relief. Public buses will be available for commuters from Thursday morning as the strike called by drivers and conductors of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking has been called off, rather they will not proceed on mass leave.
After a series of meetings and a tough stand taken by the warring parties, ie the workers and the administration, the latter stepped down to bring buses back on city's roads.
It began early on Wednesday, with none of the drivers and conductors reporting to work despite the Bombay high court ordering them on Tuesday to resume duty immediately.
As the day progressed, the state government invoked five sections of the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1968, against the staff as well as the workers' union, making the strike a non-bailable offence.
Even after this, there was no indication of any of the staffers reporting to work. In the afternoon, the HC was moved again. It's only when a meeting took place between BEST officials, representatives of BEST Workers' Union and BEST Kamgar Sena that a solution was found and the entire team went to the state secretariat to meet chief secretary JS Saharia and principal secretary of transport SK Sharma.
At 6pm, the "strike" was called off after the BEST administration withdrew the Canadian firm-made computerised duty chart. "Necessary changes will be made to the duty schedule, which will be mutually acceptable to all parties. The revised rota will come into force from June 1. Moreover, with the new bus depot at Malad becoming operational from April 7, necessary adjustment will be made in duty schedule and adequate manpower will be deputed there," said Saharia.
He claimed that the administration was trying to resolve the issue since last (Tuesday) evening and had almost succeeded in doing so. However, there were some hiccups. Attempts to resolve the issue had continued even on Wednesday, with the first round of negotiations being carried out between BEST officials and the union and then another round later in the day. Now, it has been resolved and an agreement has been signed, Saharia added.
When asked who will be held responsible for the inconvenience caused to people, Rao dished out a weak apology and said "he blamed the administration for the anger among the workers".
Saharia refused to commit on whether the losses incurred due to the strike would be recovered from the union and staff.