Garbage piles as Mumbai civic workers strike

MUMBAI — Garbage began piling up across Mumbai on Tuesday as about 80,000 civic workers went on a strike, demanding better pay.


Nithin Belle

Published: Thu 22 Sep 2011, 12:06 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:53 AM

The Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) declared the strike illegal and civic commissioner Subodh Kumar assured that essential services would be maintained with the help of the police and the home guards.

The strike by Grade IV employees — they represent nearly 70 per cent of the 125,000 work-force of the BMC — largely affected garbage collection, water supply and the functioning of civic hospitals. The strike has been called by the Municipal Mazdoor Union, headed by Sharad Rao, who is a member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The BMC is ruled by the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) combine, and elections are due in 2012. A Shiv Sena union had also supported the strike call, but backed out at the last moment as party leaders were worried over its impact on the Sena’s poll prospects.

Industries minister — and Congress leader — Narayan Rane, who also has several unions, accused Rao of holding the city to ransom. Rao met Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar — the NCP leader is the nephew of Sharad Pawar, the NCP supremo and federal agriculture minister — on Tuesday, but the talks failed.

Rao claims that the civic administration had promised to revise the wages of workers in line with the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission. However, in the agreement, the civic body had baulked at implementing the recommendations of the commission, he said.

Kumar, however, points out that the agreement — signed by 21 of the 22 BMC unions — ensures a hefty hike in salaries for workers lower down the hierarchy. But the BMC has also slashed the number of holidays and added 45 minutes to work hours.

The BMC, India’s richest civic body, is an overstaffed organisation and many of its employees are notoriously late for work. In fact, many of the conservancy staff have other jobs as well, and are often absent from their official jobs.

Meanwhile, Mumbai’s commuters had a harrowing time again on Tuesday, as many auto-rickshaw drivers continued their agitation, protesting against the government crackdown on illegal meters. While Rao, who also controls the auto-rickshaw union, denied that his union had called for the strike, thousands of three-wheelers were off the roads in Mumbai’s suburbs.

The road transport authority has launched a crackdown against auto-rickshaws following complaints from citizens about rigged meters. Many of the meters have been configured to turn at shorter intervals, with the result that passengers pay much higher rates.

The authorities have been seizing rickshaws with such meters and fining them heavily. Worried about their rackets, some of the auto-rickshaws went on a strike on Monday. The protesters also attacked auto-rickshaw drivers who did not join their strike.

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