ON September 26, hundreds of transport workers donning official uniforms of West Bengal State Transport were on the streets on the streets of Kolkata with placards, banners, shouting slogans on the eve of Durga Puja demanding bonus, equal pay for equal work, prohibiting casual-contract workers in perennial nature of jobs, regularising all contract workers and an end to the practice of subcontracting the jobs to private contractors.
Drivers and conductors of West Bengal Transport Corporation, organised protest rally under the banner of All West Bengal State Transport Sangrami Sramik Karmachari Union (AICCTU), and marched to Paribahan Bhaban to submit a mass memorandum to the transport Minister. The workers earlier campaigned intensively for their demands through published materials and meetings at different levels. In spite of intimidations and threats from the management of stern steps in case they stop plying buses at festival time and resort to rally, they continued with their planned action. Even some of the unions, those left affiliated ones also came in opposition.
Defying threats and counter campaign, workers, mainly the contract workers employed under different franchisees rallied resolutely and amid heavy rains, they staged a spirited and militant protest with a march that started from the Subodh Mallick Square towards the headquarter of State Transport Dept.
AICCTU leaders Basudeb Bose, Atanu Chakravarty, Nabendu Dasgupta and leaders of different transport depots addressed the march. A delegation comprising Dibakar Bhattacharjee, President of the Union, Raju Das, Biswaranjan Sarkar, Balaram Majhi and Tuhin Kayal met with the departmental authorities who agreed to increase the salary by Rs 2000 and immediately issued the official order in this regard. The management had already declared to pay bonus to the contract workers but no such assurance was explicitly given to the franchisee workers. This issue was also raised and the management had to officially declare that all workers will get bonus and it shall be disbursed soon.
On the day of the protest, state buses in many routes couldn’t ply due to shortage of drivers and conductors, leading to the administration to use public address system in many places to request the commuters not to depend on the state transport buses. Such a situation created enough pressure on the authorities to come to the negotiations on the workers’ demands. This movement has once again proved the real strength and potential of contract, non-regular workers in combating anti-worker policies of the government.