In an unfavourable development for Mumbai's nearly 25-lakh daily bus commuters, the deadlock between BEST workers' union and the Maharashtra government entered eighth day on Tuesday, with both sides failing to reach an agreement before the Bombay High Court to end the stir.
The high court on Monday said it would pass appropriate orders on Tuesday on the BEST bus strike if the union and state authorities failed to end the deadlock, adding that "things cannot continue as they are".
The high court bench also directed the high power committee, constituted by the Maharashtra government last week to negotiate with the striking union, to submit a report in a sealed cover clarifying its views on some of the urgent demands of the union.
The bench has been urging the union, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the state government and BEST undertaking to resolve issues in a "congenial environment" and ensure minimum inconvenience to the public.
The high court has been hearing, since last week, a PIL filed by lawyer Datta Mane urging the court to pass interim orders directing BEST workers to call off the strike immediately.
Over 32,000 employees of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) are on strike since Tuesday last week and 3,700 buses in its fleet are off the roads.
The employees are demanding higher salaries, merging budget of the loss-making BEST with that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), deliberations on new wage agreement, resuming appointments on compassionate grounds and bonus equivalent to that of the civic body employees.
On Monday, the state and the BMC told the bench that while they had proposed several solutions to resolve the issues being faced by the BEST workers, the union was still adamant on not withdrawing the strike.
The advocate general and the BMC's counsel Anil Sakhre told the bench Monday that the authorities were ready to look into the grievance surrounding the pay scale of the junior level employees subject to the strike being called off.
The BEST has a fleet of over 3,200-red-colour buses and also operates in the neighbouring Thane district and Navi Mumbai. It is the second-biggest mode of transport in Mumbai after local trains, which ferry over 80-lakh passengers every day.
With its employees having gone on strike, the cash-strapped BEST is likely to face a loss of Rs 3 crore per day.