A section of transport unions which went on an indefinite strike from January 9, on Wednesday announced deferring the protest for about 10 days, making a submission in the Madras High Court in this connection.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay V Gangapurwala and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy said workers/employees may have a right to go on strike as per the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act but its legality would be decided at the appropriate time.
“However, it is also a matter of fact that the transport service is the essential public utility service,” the bench said, while hearing a petition against the protest.
Trade unions affiliated to the CPI (M) and main opposition AIADMK were among the respondents, and they submitted in the court that they will ‘suspend’ the strike till January 19.
“To provide the facility of transport service throughout the State is the responsibility of the State. In light of that, the State would be within its right to take all possible legitimate steps as may be permissible under law in case the illegal activities are resorted to by the employees. The respondents 11 to 14 are also expected not to proceed ahead with the strike at least till January 19, 2024,” the bench said.
“At this stage, learned counsel for respondent Nos.11 and 12 (Anna Thozhirsanga Peravai of AIADMK and CPI-M affiliated CITU) submits that the members of the respondents 11 and 12, for the interest of the people at large and in view of the Pongal festival, would suspend the strike call till 19.01.2024 and would report to their duties by tomorrow (11.01.2024) itself,” the court said.
They should be allowed to report for duty.
CITU leader A Soundararajan announced deferment of the strike and added that after January 19, the workers would continue all forms of protest in a peaceful manner.
Referring to proposed talks following the Pongal festival next week, he said, “after giving the government some time to consider the demands, if needed, once again we may have to resort to strike.”
The Left trade union leader said the government’s stand against even releasing ‘ad hoc’ payment of Rs 2,000 to workers ahead of the festival, cast doubts on “whether the government is toying with the idea of removing the Dearness Allowance altogether.”
Pointing to factors such as ‘outsourcing’ and hiring workers on ‘contract,’ he said these aspects indicated a possibility of a divergence from the government’s policy. “We have to protest against all these things.”
The trade unions had announced the strike demanding the implementation of a “6-point charter of demands.” It includes the initiation of talks for enhanced wages (15th wage revision pact), filling vacant posts, and release of pending Dearness Allowance for those in service and retired workers.
Transport Minister S S Sivasankar had earlier said the demands will be met in due course when the financial situation improves.
Trade union affiliated to the ruling DMK, the Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) was not a part of the strike. AIADMK’s Anna Thozhirsanga Peravai (ATP) and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) among others participated in the strike.