Successful Nationwide Struggles by Road Transport Workers
ROAD transport workers and small vehicle operators conducted struggles across the country over their various demands including wage revision.
Road transport workers of Maharashtra went on a surprise strike from June 9 against the unilateral announcement of a meagre increase in wages. The authorities threatened the workers that those who did not accept the wage revision should leave their jobs, paying the way for the government to engage contract workers in the arising vacancies. This provoked the workers and they went on the surprise strike without waiting for a strike call from the unions. The entire state transport service came to a standstill and there was pressure on the government. Ultimately, the government negotiated with the unions and arrived at a settlement on June 10. The workers then resumed duties.
All state road transport workers’ unions in Telangana, including the recognised union backed by the ruling TRS, served strike notices demanding wage revision due from April 1, 2017. But the chief minister came out heavily against the unions and workers, threatening that the government will close down the state transport corporation if they go on strike. Further he claimed that even though the government extended all-out support to the corporation, the workers and unions failed to bring the corporation in to profits and hence the workers have no right to demand wage revision. The unions effectively countered the argument of the government and showed that because of the wrong policies of the government, the corporation was facing financial crisis. Almost all the political parties, trade unions and many intellectuals supported the cause of the workers. Finally, the government was compelled to discuss with the unions and offered 16 per cent interim wage revision and assured that it will constitute three committees to study the matter. Then, the unions withdrew the strike notices. All the unions but the recognised one expressed their apprehension that in the name of reforms, the government might cause harm to the corporation. They cautioned the workers to be vigilant and get united to fight such conspiracy.
Sholapur municipal transport workers went on an indefinite strike from April 9, demanding payment of salary dues of 10 months. Finally, the authorities agreed to pay two months’ arrears immediately and the balance dues once in two months, along with the regular salary. With this understanding, the strike was called off on May 13 and services resumed on May 14.
Workers of Punjab Roadways at the call of the joint action committee went on a strike on April 21, demanding regularisation of contract workers and on other issues. The unions in BEST (Bombay Electricity Supply & Transport) served a strike notice against procurement of buses from private firm, along with staff. But due to the intervention of the court, it was postponed. The struggle and the campaign to save BEST are going on.
Transport workers of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand are on struggle path against privatisation moves, wage revision, etc.
Auto-rickshaw workers in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand state went on a four-day strike from April 30 to May 3 against illegal parking charges, police harassment, etc. Finally, the Deputy Commissioner intervened and assured that he will constitute a committee including our union to study the issues and also to stop the police harassment.
Auto-rickshaw drivers in Bihar went on strike for seven days in April this year against illegal parking charges. Finally, the municipal authorities agreed to withdraw the collection of parking charges from auto-rickshaw drivers.
Over 5,000 truck operators in Ballarpur district of Himachal Pradesh were on a strike for 11 days from May 1, demanding the ACC Cement company management to enhance the transportation charges. Finally, the management has agreed to enhance the charges by Rs 400 and the strike was called off.
Oil tanker operators in Odisha went on a one-day strike on May 16, demanding a minimum wage of Rs 30,000 to driver and Rs 15,000 to cleaner. The administration declared the strike as illegal. Even then the strike was complete in three out of four oil company depots.
The drivers attached to cab aggregators Uber and Ola in Guwahati in Assam went on a 72-hour strike demanding enhancement of their share in fares. Four unions covering all modes of road transport in Assam decided to go on strike on June 4 against rise in fuel prices, the Citizenship Amendment Bill and demanding a legislation on welfare for the transport workers. In West Bengal, AITUC and CITU jointly gave a call for taxi drivers’ strike on June 15.
The All India Confederation of Goods Vehicle Owners Association gave a call for indefinite strike from June 18 demanding reduction in diesel prices and third-party insurance premium. The All India Road Transport Workers’ Federation wholeheartedly extended its support and solidarity to the strike and appealed to all its affiliated unions and federations to extend solidarity.
It is the experience that wherever the workers went on indefinite strike unitedly, they have succeeded.