India: after five months, a court decision threatens the strike of Maharashtra bus drivers

In India, more than 70,000 workers at the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) have been on strike for five months. A Bombay High Court ruling now puts the strike in grave danger. It could be canceled without the employees being able to assert their main demands.

On Thursday, April 7, the Bombay Supreme Court ordered striking MSRTC bus drivers, ticket inspectors, mechanics and other support workers to return to work no later than Friday, April 22.

The court ruling gives bus company MSRTC the legal ability to fire any worker who continues the strike beyond April 21. The MSRTC is owned by the state government of Maharashtra.

Bus drivers and MSRTC workers call on passers-by to support their strike (Photo: MSRTC strikers)

In response to the Supreme Court’s latest anti-strike ruling, Maharashtra Transport Minister Anil Parab did not mince words. “The assumption is,” he explained arrogantly, “that employees who do their jobs [bis zum 22. April] have not resumed, do not need work.

The Supreme Court justices tried to pressure the workers through their pleadings. “Resume your service,” they demanded. “Don’t jeopardize your livelihood like that.”

The judges told the bus drivers, whose strike is primarily aimed at getting the government to take over the bus company, that the workers also have “other options” to campaign for their demands. Presumably, the judges meant that workers should devote their energies to fruitless lobbying of establishment capitalist parties. All of these parties have long made it known that they categorically oppose the struggle of the MSRTC workers.

The workers demand that the national for-profit company MSRTC be integrated into the administration of the state so that they receive the same wages, benefits and job security guarantees as other state employees. With this demand, they oppose the plans of the MSRTC leadership and the Maharashtra government to privatize the intercity bus service, which is a much-needed means of transport for millions of workers, especially in rural areas.

With the court’s decision to set a deadline for ending the strike on April 22, the final court hearing ended after three days. So far, the workers have won their strike despite brutal management retaliation, government threats and repeated court rulings declaring it illegal.

Cheryl Tenny

"Thinker. Food advocate. Incurable coffee enthusiast. Communicator. Proud student. Zombie buff. Tv fanatic. Extreme troublemaker."

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