Explained: Why are Tamil Nadu transport unions on indefinite strike ahead of Pongal?
Talks with Chief Minister MK Stalin-led government failed on Monday, with unions, including CITU, seeking a 15th wage revision agreement, dearness allowance revision, and filling of vacancies.
Transport workers' unions in Tamil Nadu have announced an indefinite strike set to commence on Tuesday, citing the state government's alleged neglect of their demands. The decision comes after unsuccessful talks with the government led by Chief Minister MK Stalin on Monday. A coalition of unions, including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), presented a list of demands during the discussions, including the signing of the 15th wage revision agreement for increased pay, revision of dearness allowance for pensioners, and the filling of vacancies in bus driver and conductor positions.
According to CITU leader A Soundararajan, the state government categorically rejected all the demands, characterizing it as an "unjust answer and an unfair stand," and accused the government of treating transport workers as second-class citizens. Soundararajan emphasized a key demand for the release of the Dearness Allowance pending for eight years to pensioners.
"We are not seeking a hike; we are asking to release the DA that is due," Soundararajan stated, expressing dissatisfaction with the government's stance.
The transport unions' strike coincides with the upcoming Tamil festival 'Pongal,' raising concerns about disruptions during the festive rush.
Transport Minister S S Sivasankar asserted on Monday that the workers' strike has political motives and could adversely affect the public. Warning of appropriate action, the minister mentioned that the demands would be addressed "when the financial situation improves."
In preparation for the Pongal festival on January 15, the state plans to operate 19,484 buses (including special buses) from January 12 to 14 to meet public needs. However, the unions remain skeptical, with CITU leader A Soundararajan suggesting that the government might attempt to run a skeleton service by enlisting those previously denied work.
AIADMK Chief and Leader of the Opposition Edappadi K Palaniswami criticized the DMK government, accusing it of lacking humanitarian considerations for not meeting any of the trade unions' demands. He urged the government to resume talks and address at least the minimum demands of the workers.