Contractual workers of the state-owned Punjab Roadways have observed a three day strike starting from July 16 to highlight the government’s triviality towards their demands. Notably, this is the sixth strike conducted by the Punjab roadways workers in this year.
The workers, under the banner of Punbus Contract Workers’ Union, have been raising their demands, which include regularisation of senior contract workers, implementation of equal work, implementation of equal pay verdict of the Supreme Court, merging of contract workers in the Punjab Roadways and end of contract system among others.
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As the state government has failed to meet the long-pending demands of the workers once again, Punbus Contract Workers’ Union had decided to go on strike to remind the government about the hardship of the workers.
“The state government has been continuously delaying in fulfilling various long-pending demands of the Punbus contract workers. We held a meeting with Director Transport at his office in Chandigarh to resolve the issue, but it seems the government is not serious about the demands of contract workers. Therefore, we have decided to go on three-day strike,” said Resham Singh, the president of Punjab Roadways and Punbus Contract Workers Union.
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As part of the protest, the workers organised rallies in different parts of the state and also gheraoed the residence of Transport Minister. Earlier, on June 25, though state transport minister had assured that the government would meet the workers to discuss the issues, there was no follow up. The workers and unions have also urged the government to do away with the system of imposing accident claims on bus drivers.
In March this year, ahead of the strike, the workers had submitted a letter of demand to the state government regarding the implementation of the guidelines of the Supreme Court on equal wages for equal work. In the demand letter, they also urged the government to implement the Punjab and Haryana High Court order of making temporary workers permanent.
The Punjab and Haryana high court had ordered the cancellation of about 12,210 permits, over a year back. However, since the state government was yet to implement it, all those buses are still plying. Acting on public interest litigation, the High Court had directed the government to cancel the permits and extensions. In this, the petitioners had alleged that the transport was controlled by mafia and politicians. The bus route permits had been granted violating the Motor Vehicles Act 1988.
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Though the Congress-led state government had announced a transport policy on February 22, 2018, it is yet to be implemented. while the unions have been claiming that “the government was keen to protect private bus operators, most of whom were senior politicians.”
The hardship of Punjab roadways workers is not an isolated one. During the last one year, in many states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, the transport workers had observed strikes and protests. All these strikes came up in the larger context of BJP-led Centre trying to destroy the public transportation system.
According to various transport workers’ unions, the Centre which is on a verge to pass the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2016in Rajya Sabha, ultimately paves way for private players. The Bill, that seeks to replace the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, was passed in the Lok Sabha this April.
However, it was referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha for consideration after the opposition parties raised objections and demanded more time to study the Bill.
On March 6, 2018, opposing the Centre’s policy, transport workers across the country had observed a nationwide strike. During the strike, which was called by all national transport federations associated with central trade unions like the AITUC, CITU, INTUC, HMS, LPF, AICCTU, UTUC, TUCC and AIUTUC, the workers and unions had urged the Centre to step away from the bill that ultimately destroys the public transportation.