Court Says Metro A Public Utility, Stir Doesn’t Appear Justified Or LegalAamir Khan & Sidhartha Roy TNN
To the relief of commuters, Delhi high court on Friday barred employees of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) from going on a strike. The court said that the metro train was a public utility and a strike did not appear “justified or legal”.
“They (25 lakh metro users) would be greatly inconvenienced if the respondents (employees) go on strike, as also the fact that, prima facie, the action of the respondents does not appear to be justified or legal,” observed Justice Vipin Sanghi, reasoning that sufficient notice had not been given to DMRC by the employees. Conciliation proceedings were also going on, he noted.
DMRC had approached the court on restraining the employees in relation to their notice of June 18 and June 20 on their intent to go on strike. DMRC made the court aware of the settlement arrived at between the rail operator and the striking employees on July 23 last year. The court observed that the issue was over the implementation of the terms of the settlement after the employees claimed that the 2017 terms had not been fully met.
“We will follow the high court’s order and not go on strike,” said Mahavir Prasad, general secretary, DMRC Employees’ Union. “However, our sit-in protests will continue and we will wear black armbands to work.” The court has posted the matter for hearing next on July 6.
Since June 20, DMRC’s non-executive employees have been taking part in sit-in protests at different metro stations and threatening to go on a full strike if their demands were not met by Friday. They are seeking a revision in salaries and pay grades and payment of arrears, the right to form a union and formulation of fixed guidelines for sacking an employee.
These employees play a critical role in running the train network, and include train drivers, station controllers, technicians, and operations and maintenance staff. Last year, they had similarly agitated, but a crisis was averted following an agreement. The employees are now claiming that the DMRC management has not kept the promises it made last year.
“People are stuck in the same pay grade for 10 years, when earlier a promotion was given every five years, subject to satisfactory service record,” claimed Prasad. The merging of the Rs 13,500-25,520 grade with the Rs 14,000-26,950 grade too hadn’t been implemented. The employees are now demanding a higher pay grade for non-executive employees in the Rs 20,600-46,500 scale.
A DMRC official refuted these and said pay grades were raised and all arrears had been paid. “DMRC is a good pay master but the non-executive employees are demanding a bigger hike after already been provided one last year,” he said.
Early in the day, Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot had offered to intervene in the matter. “Delhi Govt is equally committed to ensuring smooth functioning of DMRC and if needed ESMA would have been invoked,” he tweeted. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal too referred to the issue in his tweet, in which he said, “Whereas all genuine demands of Metro employees shud be met, strike wud cause inconvenience to lakhs of people. Strike shud not take place. Whereas govt imposing ESMA as last resort, I wud urge employees to not resort to strike (sic).”