UP: Months After Protest, Govt Hikes 16 Paisa/km for UPSRTC Contract Drivers; Union Cry Foul
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Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government has announced a salary hike for nearly 25,000 contractual state transport employees who have been on strike for the past few months. However, employees are not happy with the announcement, as they feel that the hike is “measly” considering inflation. They have been demanding job regularisation and salaries in the same pay-scale as permanent employees.
The decision to increase the salary was announced by Transport Minister Daya Shankar Singh after multiple rounds of meetings with the Uttar Pradesh Roadways Karmchari Sangh and Roadways Karmchari Sanyukt Parishad UP. An order in this regard will come into force from September 15.
On Friday, the Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) managing director Sanjay Kumar issued a letter in this regard. However, union leaders, terming the hike as a 'positive step', also rued that when the inflation rate was four times higher, a “10% increment (16 paise per kilometre) is nothing but mockery of their hard work".
Contractual drivers and conductors will be now paid Rs 1.75 per km, as per revised salary increment, against Rs 1.59 per km earlier. About 22,000 contractual employees will get this benefit. On an average, the salary of contractual drivers will be enhanced in the range of Rs 800 to Rs 1,500 per month.
"A bus driver covers 5,000 km on an average and the maximum one could drive is 8,000 km in a month. If we multiply this with Rs 1.75, it would be Rs 8,750 per month. With such meagre wages, it is not possible to make both ends meet," Girish Chandra Mishra, general secretary of Roadways Karmchari Sanyukt Parishad UP told NewsClick.
There are around 34,000 contractual drivers and conductors in the state, who fall under four categories in UPSRTC --- excellent, eminent, general category and special zone. The 16 paisa/km hike is for general category contractual employees, not for other three categories, claimed Mishra.
"Around 22,000 contractual drivers and conductors come under the general category, the rest three will be paid as usual. Drivers and conductors of excellent category are paid Rs 14,600 per month while the eminent category is paid Rs 17,600/month. After many years of struggle and strikes, Rs 600 for both categories was increased last year in November. Since then, not a rupee has increased," Mishra claimed, adding that if drivers and conductors of these two categories cover 5,000 km and perform their duty for 22 days a month, then Rs 3,000 incentive along with salary is paid to them.
The union leader said that the other category, known as special zone, works near bordering areas like Delhi-NCR, Nepal border, UP-Bihar border. They are paid Rs 2.18 paisa per km and this amount has not increased after November last year.
When asked what was the requirement for various categories, such as special zone, Mishra said: "Minimum five years of service and performance are mandatory. Besides, he must have driven at least 70,000 km a year and should be present 288 days on duty to fall under this category."
The union leaders alleged that bus drivers and conductors hired under the new recruitment policy are paid Rs 25,000 per month, while the contractual ones are paid per kilometer, which is “unfair.” They sought ‘equal pay for equal work’ under the Act concerned and regular disbursement of wages.
"Around 52,000 employees, including drivers, conductors, workshop staff and others work hard to cater to the travel needs of lakhs of people. Out of these, only 18,000 are permanent employees, whereas 34,000 are contractual workers. There is absolutely no valid reason for privatisation of a profit-making service," a union leader told NewsClick.
Among the major demands of the unions are filling up of all vacant posts, end of illegal services by private buses, purchase of at least 5,000 new buses and a minimum salary of Rs 18,000/month for each driver. The provision of medical facilities to all employees on the rolls and dearness allowance arrears since 2020 are still pending, the union said.
"Although 5,000 buses are required across the state, at least 3,000 are needed immediately," Mishra told NewsClick.
The union leaders also opposed the state government's move to make 75% buses ply on contractual basis, with only 25% will be government-owned buses.
Recently, L Venkateshwarlu, the new principal secretary of the state transport department, in a letter to the UPSRTC, confirmed the decision after getting approval from Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Transport Minister, that 75% buses will be given to private players in order to give passengers a “clean and good experience.”
"The attempts of the state government to privatise the corporation will not be tolerated at any cost. We have been demanding regularisation of contractual workers but the state government is not taking cognisance of the matter. If this attitude of those in power doesn’t change then thousands of workers will go on an indefinite strike," the union leader said.
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