TN transport strike to continue. MLA pay hike adds to workers' anger

Tamil Nadu transport workers stage protest in Chennai demanding a wage hike

Tamil Nadu transport workers stage protest in Chennai demanding a wage hike

(Eds;incorporating details of court appointed arbitrator) Chennai, Jan 11 (PTI) Agitating transport workers in Tamil Nadu today "temporaril" withdrew their eight day old strike over wage related issues and said they would return to work tomorrow, ahead of Pongal festival, which falls on January 14.

Tamil Nadu has over 22,000 buses with a workforce of about 143,000 employees and over 10 rounds of talks have been held between the trade unions and government representatives, including transport minister M.R. Vijayabhaskar.

The Tamil Nadu government came under controversy recently, when they almost doubled the salaries of its MLAs while the transport workers were on strike demanding increase in wages. Even though the union is affiliated with the ruling government, a driver associated with the union stated that they are joining the protests for their rights saying, "We follow the party's ideology, but we took part in the protest for our own rights".

Responding to the criticism of striking before the busy Pongal holiday period, he said, "The Transport Minister will have to solve it", essentially not giving the government in general and the minister in particular any breathing room with regards to an outcome of the discussions.

The bench noted that government agreed to three of five demands by the unions, subject to employees resuming work from this evening.

The Opposition DMK in Tamil Nadu on Friday told the State Assembly that its MLAs did not want any hike in their salary and that it would be given to the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund.

"The strike is being temporarily withdrawn keeping in mind the welfare of the people of the state", he added.

"The Tamil Nadu government continues to be insensitive towards the workers' demands". On the other hand, Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi K Palanisamy has asked the transport unions to withdraw strike and report to work immediately.

Lauding the workers for their unity, he said, "This strike is being suspended".

Those involved from the union who are participating in the strike include drivers, conductors and technical staff.

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