The Kerala government has decided to implement a 12-hour single duty system for workers of the debt-ridden public transport body, KSRTC, to turn it into a profit making entity.
While agreeing to a single duty system, the Congress-affiliated trade union Transport Democratic Federation (TDF) said that it has to be for eight hours duration and not 12 hours as proposed by the state government.
The pro-CPI(M) Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), did not say anything on what should be the timings under the system, but stated that it has to be brought into effect within six months from October 1 after arriving at a consensus with everyone.
Both unions aired their views while speaking to the media after a meeting with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on September 5 where it was also decided to clear before Onam, the salary arrears of state-run KSRTC’s workers who have been agitating for several months over delayed payment of their wages.
In connection with payment of salary arrears, the government also issued an order on September 6 directing release of Rs 100 crore to KSRTC from the funds earmarked for the transport authority under the budget.
After the September 5 meeting, a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) had said that a 12-hour single duty system would be implemented and duties would be assigned on rotation on a zonal basis.
It had also said that the 12-hour shift would also include a four-hour rest period.
Besides, the CMO statement had also said that the system would be first implemented in ordinary and fast passenger services and would be applicable for six days in a week.
Initially, it has to be made applicable to 50 per cent of the staff and thereafter, the percentage can be increased or decreased, it had said.
However, the TDF has said it was not agreeable to the 12-hour shifts and said the timings should be according to the Motor Transport Workers Act of 1961.
Speaking to media persons after the meeting, they had said that if the 12-hour shift was implemented, those coming to work from far off places and have to commence work at 6 am would not be able to return home before 7-8 am as they have to hand in accounts, park the buses, etc. after end of duty.
Thereafter, they will reach home only around 10 pm and such work timings for six days a week would be injurious to the health of the drivers and conductors which in turn could prove dangerous to passengers travelling on KSRTC buses, the TDF leaders had said.
”We are agreeable to an 8-hour single duty system,” they had said.
The same contention was raised by the Congress-led UDF opposition in the state assembly last week. In reply to that, Kerala Transport Minister Antony Raju had said that the 12-hour shift would also contain a 4-hour rest period when the drivers and conductors can take naps or relax.
Raju had also said in the House that after signing an agreement, which also provided for a new salary structure, the trade unions were opposing the single duty system.
Both TDF and CITU had also alleged, before the media, that the KSRTC management had given misleading reports about employees’ salaries to the state government and the Chief Minister.
The state government, in the CMO statement of September 5, had contended that the single duty system would lead to increased earnings for the employees, reduce strain of long distance driving, bring down accidents, around 600 to 800 more buses can be pressed into operation and could increase KSRTC’s revenue generation by another Rs 20-25 crore every month.