Hours after employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) on Monday announced that they will return to work from Tuesday after their 52-day-long strike, the management of the state-owned body made it clear that it can’t take them back as the matter is pending before the Labour Commissioner.
TSRTC Managing Director Sunil Sharma said the decision by the employees, who were on an illegal strike, was legally not tenable and asked them to wait till the Labour Commissioner completes the process as per the direction of the Telangana High Court.
The official also warned the employees against creating law and order problems by preventing temporary workers from discharging their duties. He said a strict vigil would be maintained at the depots and bus stations and those violating the law would be dealt with firmly.
Sharma said the employees can’t go on strike and come back on duty whenever they like. He pointed out that the High Court has asked the Labour Commissioner to take a decision on the strike and that the TSRTC take future action as per his decision.
Stressing the need for restraint, he said the employees who were on illegal strike can’t return to work till the Labour Commissioner complete the process.
The High Court had last week asked the Labour Commissioner to decide whether to refer the matter to a Labour Court or not. The court refused to call the strike illegal but also declined to issue directions to the government to take back the employees.
Earlier, TSRTC employees’ Joint Action Committee (JAC) leader Ashwathama Reddy announced that they were calling off the strike. He asked all the employees to return to duty from Tuesday. He appealed to the temporary drivers, conductors and other staff not to report for work as the regular employees have decided to end the strike.
Reddy said they would continue to press for their demands while discharging their duties. He said the employees would continue to fight to save TSRTC from privatisation. The TSRTC MD termed the JAC’s announcement ‘ridiculous’.
Nearly 50,000 employees were on strike since October 5 to press for various demands including the merger of TSRTC with the government. About 1,500 employees later returned to duty in response to an appeal by Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao.
The longest strike in the history of RTC in the Telugu states saw the suicide of five employees while some others died of depression.
The JAC leaders alleged that the adamant stand of the government led to the death of 25 employees. The TSRTC has not paid salaries to the employees for September and October, causing distress to thousands of workers.
The chief minister not only rejected all the demands of the employees but claimed that they dismissed themselves by abstaining from work illegally.
In a move further angering the employees, the government announced privatisation of 5,100 TSRTC routes. The High Court last week dismissed a petition challenging the government’s decision.