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TN: Transport Workers Begin Indefinite Strike, DMK Accused of Failing to Fulfil Electoral Promises

The joint platform of transport workers unions announced the strike after the government of Tamil Nadu and the transport department failed to consider their long pending demands, including non-revision of DA for 96 months, and failure to fulfil vacancies, among others.

In a major embarrassment for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the workers of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) have swung into an indefinite strike starting January 9. The joint action committee of the trade unions, including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Anna Thozhilsanga Peravai (ATP), which owes allegiance to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) are participating in the strike. 

The failure of the DMK government in fulfilling its electoral promises related to the transport workers, including the appointment of workers in vacancies since 2018, restoration of 4,000 cancelled services, disbursal of pension benefits to retirees since 2018 and immediate payment of dearness allowance for 96 months for serving and retired workers have led to the strike of the workers. The trade unions have also accused the transport corporations of utilising Rs 13,000 crore, which workers contributed towards different social welfare schemes.

The transport department has claimed that 104% of the services are provided, but the trade unions are accusing the corporation of hastily recruiting drivers and conductors on a contract basis, besides employing workers from local bodies. The trade unions have claimed that around 60,000 workers are participating in the strike.


The TNSTC is a major service sector in the state, entrusted with providing transport facilities for all sections of the population. Free travel to school and college students, differently abled persons and women are a few important schemes executed through the TNSTC.

Since 2017, the workers of the corporation have alleged apathy from the government of Tamil Nadu, resulting in hardships for workers who are retirees. A statement of the joint platform of the workers' unions accused the successive governments of refraining from recruiting vacancies due to retirement and deaths.

“There are around 20,000 vacancies in the corporation. The government is not filling up vacancies under compassionate grounds either. Instead, the corporation is resorting to outsourcing and contractualisation. Both the public and the transport workers are affected by the attitude of the government”, the statement of the trade unions noted.

Another major demand of both the workers and retirees is the non-disbursal of DA for about 96 months. Besides, the unions have accused the corporation of utilising the funds deducted from the workers under different heads, including employees' provident funds.

“The workers are not demanding anything more than their deserved dues and wages. The government should come forward to settle the demands with the Pongal festival around the corner. The non-payment of DA is a cruelty towards the workers”, A Soundararajan, the state president of CITU, said.

The workers are alleging the government is forcing them to operate the buses in the morning despite their duties being scheduled for the afternoon. More temporary workers were trained for the last couple of days to operate the buses and issue travel tickets in a hasty manner.

“One of our major demands is adequate recruitment of workers in existing vacancies, which has never been considered. Now, with the strike receiving traction, the corporation is urgently looking for workers,” C Suresh Kumar, general secretary of TNSTC Workers Unions, Kanniyakumari district, told NewsClick.

The Department of Transport claimed that 104% of the buses are being operated, but the CITU rubbished the claims and said that only 40% of buses are being run on the routes.

“A single driver is used to drive the 4-5 buses from the depot to the originating point to increase the numbers. How will the corporation run the buses? Already, we are receiving reports of drivers unable to operate the buses and of minor accidents from across the state,” Suresh Kumar said.


The workers are referring to the promises made by the DMK during the 2021 assembly elections to fulfil the genuine demands of the transport workers. The Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), affiliated with the DMK, is staying away from the strike despite leading struggles during the AIADMK regime. 

The department was operating around 23,000 buses till 2017 to remote rural, hilly areas and towns but was reduced to 19,500, putting the people in hardship during the previous All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime.

During the 2021 campaign, the DMK promised to abolish contract employment and fulfil the demands of transport workers, including retirees. The retirees have been denied DA hikes for the past eight years, while thousands of retirees have been awaiting pension benefits for more than five years.

“Since the promises were not fulfilled after several rounds of protests, talks, and legal battles, the transport workers were forced to strike work. The number of buses running on the roads will reduce from tomorrow as those working today won't be able to work tomorrow even if the government is forcing them to do so,” Soundararajan said.

The AIADMK general secretary and leader of the opposition, Edappadi K Palaniswami, has extended support to the striking workers, but the DA revision was withheld during the AIADMK regime for 66 months, while the DMK regime is accountable for the last 30 months.

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