Striking transport workers in Tamil Nadu showed no signs of budging despite the government's warning of action, even as the Madras High Court today told the state not to terminate the staff without its permission.
The strike entered the fifth day today.
Transport unions involved in the strike decided that the employees would hold protests along with their families outside all divisional offices tomorrow, pressing for their demands on wage-related issues.
The first bench of the Madras High Court, headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee, while making it clear that no striking worker can be terminated without leave of the court, also declined to vacate its interim order passed on a PIL filed in this regard on January 5.
After recording the submissions of workers, the bench said in no way can the staff be denied their legitimate dues, particularly those already deducted from their wages.
The court said it expected the state government to clear dues immediately by taking loans or through other means. However, it declined to accept trade unions' contention that the stir was not a "flash strike".
"None of the government authorities or even the transport minister are affected by the strike. Only the middle and poor class people who depend on public transport are affected," it observed.
"Transport workers are entitled to their legitimate dues, but people cannot be inconvenienced through such strikes," the court said.
Earlier, taking a serious view of the strike, the court had said the workers should get back to work or "face consequences," including termination and contempt of court.
The government had also said it would initiate departmental action if the striking employees did not report to duty by January 7.
Today, the trade unions said the employees were "firm" on their demands and announced continuing with their indefinite strike.
General Secretary of the DMK-backed Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) M Shanmugam said following the court directive to government on dues of employees, talks should be held to end the impasse.
"The state government should come forward for talks at least now, in the interest of the people (and) scrap the earlier wage agreement," he said, adding, "The employees are firm that their demands be met. So protest (strike) will continue."
As many as 17 trade unions had launched an 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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