Talks between the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) and striking employees on Saturday failed to resolve the impasse as the strike entered 22nd day.
After talks with TSRTC officials, leaders of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of employees said the strike would continue. However, they expressed readiness for another round of talks, if invited.
JAC convenor Ashwathama Reddy, who along three other co-convenors attended the talks, said the meeting took place amid restrictions and they were not even allowed to carry mobile phones. “They took away our phones. In the history of RTC, I have not seen such a meeting,” he said.
JAC co-convenor V.S. Rao said talks with even enemy countries are not held in such an environment.
They said the management confined the meeting to 21 demands, while the JAC wanted talks on all 26 demands and alleged it came to the meeting with a fixed agenda. “They wanted to hold talks only because of the court,” another co-convenor Raji Reddy said.
TSRTC managing director incharge Sunil Sharma said talks were held on the direction of the high court. JAC leaders left the meeting midway saying they would come back after consultations with other leaders, but didn’t return till late in the evening, he added.
The talks began in the afternoon after the TSRTC, acting on the direction of the Telangana High Court, extended an invitation to the JAC, which is spear-heading the strike to press for various demands, the main being TSRTC’s merger with the government.
The government had on Wednesday set up a committee of TSRTC officials to look into the demands, except the merger.
The committee submitted its report to the government on Friday. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao discussed the report with Transport Minister P. Ajay Kumar and officials. It was at this meeting that he directed the TSRTC to invite the JAC for talks.
The talks are being held two days before the next hearing of public interest litigations (PILs) in the high court. At the previous hearing last week, the court had asked the government to hold talks with the employees.
The strike by nearly 50,000 employees began on October 5. The government took a tough stand and declared the strike illegal and refused to hold talks.
KCR, as the chief minister is popularly known, said over 48,000 employees dismissed themselves by not joining the duty before the expiry of deadline. He threatened to deal firmly with those trying to disrupt TSRTC bus services with the help of temporary employees.
He also asked officials to recruit more drivers and conductors on temporary basis and hire more private buses.
The strike took political overtone with the entire opposition extending their support. JAC has been staging protests across the state. It also called a state-wide shutdown last week.
The strike witnessed suicide by two employees, while some others died of cardiac arrest, allegedly due to depression caused by the loss of job and non-receipt of salary.
KCR stated on Thursday the TSRTC had no money to pay salaries. He even remarked the TSRTC was finished and nobody could save it from shutting down. Blaming the union for the situation, he hinted that the government would go ahead with privatization of the corporation.