Transport services in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have crippled yesterday as about 20,000 state-owned buses went off the roads in both Telugu states as over one lakh employees began an indefinite strike, demanding hike in wages. They started strike following failure in talks between unions and the APSRTC management. All long-distance buses and city services came to a grinding halt across the two states, hitting 1.5 crore people who use public transport.
In Andhra Pradesh, a total of 10,576 Andhra Pradesh Transport Corporation Service (APSRTC) buses went off the roads, while 9,370 buses were confined to depots in Telangana.Students, office goers, holidayers and pilgrims in Tirupati were hit hard by the strike. As many as 3,500 buses went off the roads in Greater Hyderabad.
The APSRTC management has threatened to use the Essential Service Maintenance Act (ESMA) against the employees if they fail to return to work by noon on Thursday but the leaders of employees' unions said they will not be cowed down.
The employees went on strike from midnight, demanding 43 pay revision at par with the other government employees in the two states.The APSRTC management has turned down the demand, citing poor financial condition of the organisation. It has offered 27 percent hike.Both the state governments expressed their inability to provide 43 per cent fitment as demanded by workers, given the precarious finances of the corporation.
APSRTC managing director N. Sambasiva Rao said the demand for hike in wages can be met only by increasing the bus fares by 15 to 20 percent.He also said it was not possible to meet the demand at this stage as the APSRTC was to be bifurcated into two units for the two states from May 14.He said 43 percent hike in wages will put a burden of Rs.2,800 crore on the organisation, which suffered a loss of Rs.950 crore during 2014-15.
Telangana's Transport Minister Mahender Reddy and his Andhra counterpart Siddha Raghava Rao appealed to the employees to call off their strike in view of the hardships caused to people, adding that the transport corporation was making efforts to operate partial services.
Speaking at a meeting in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu deplored that RTC workers resorted to strike with out continuing their talks with cabinet sub-committee. Appealing them to immediately join duties, he assured to resolve all problems through negotiations.
The workers' unions had served a strike notice to the management demanding division of the corporation into TSRTC and APSRTC and also for 43 per cent fitment on the lines of government employees.
Meanwhile, the RTC has started making alternative arrangements by asking drivers with valid driving licences and conductors to approach RTC offices for taking up temporary jobs. It promise to pay Rs 1,000 per day. Also promising to give preference to candidates with Class X pass certificates during regular appointments in the corporation. RTC authoriteis are hopesful to restore half of services by tomorrow with alternative arrangements.