Transport employees of Tamil Nadu today staged a dharna along with their family members as the indefinite strike over wage revision entered its sixth day. Women and children joined the striking workers and staged a protest in front of divisional offices of the state-owned transport corporations. Though the state government had been trying to maintain services by roping in temporary drivers and conductors in addition to employees not taking part in the agitation, passengers faced immense hardship over reduced availability of buses. Uncertainty loomed large over advance booking of tickets for special buses for 'Pongal' which normally commences ahead of the harvest festival on January 14. Travellers were unable to book tickets as the advanced booking counters remained shut at the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus today. Meanwhile, the Southern Railway ramped up services to accommodate the extra rush due to the ongoing strike by the workers affiliated to some transport unions, who have rejected the wage hike proposed by the government. Transport Minister M R Vijayabhaskar has defended the proposed hike citing poor financial status of the transport corporations and appealed to the employees to resume work. He accused the unions spearheading the strike of misleading the employees and said the issue should not be politicised. He also said the present increase would result in an additional burden of Rs 1,000 crore. "They should accept this hike and resume work", the minister told reporters here last night. On the dues of retired transport workers, he said the government has agreed to clear the amount even before the harvest festival of Pongal which falls on January 14. The Madras High Court had yesterday refused to lift its January 5 interim order restraining the employees from taking recourse to strike. It, however, made it clear that no striking worker can be terminated from service without its permission. The government had said it would initiate departmental action if the striking employees did not report to duty by January 7. The trade unions, however, said the employees were "firm" on their demands and announced the continuance of the indefinite strike. General Secretary of the DMK-backed Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) M Shanmugam said following the court directive to the government on dues of employees, talks should be held to end the impasse. As many as 17 trade unions had launched the indefinite strike since Thursday night, with scores of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) staff joining the protest. The striking unions want the factor for wage revision to be fixed at 2.57 times, while government insisted it be 2.44.
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