As talks between union leaders and officials remained inconclusive, the indefinite strike by employees of the city's civic transport undertaking Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) continued for the fourth consecutive day on Friday.
In the presence of Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta and the BEST commissioner Surendra Kumar Bagde, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray met the BEST union leaders.
Shiv Sena party controls the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). For nearly seven hours, the negotiations went on but failed to break the deadlock. Not a single BEST bus plied on Mumbai roads on Thursday.
"The officials have refused to relent on our demands to merge the budget of BEST with that of the BMC. Therefore, the strike will continue. They did not agree to even give us a written assurance about our other demands," BEST Workers Union president Shashank Rao told reporters after the meeting.
He added that while Thackeray tried to find a middle ground, he did not succeed.
The Union has written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and demanded a written assurance on its demands, Rao said.
"This strike was called by workers. In the absence of definite assurance, what will we tell them?" said Rao.
#Mumbai: Fourth day of strike by Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply & Transport (BEST) bus employees over demands of implementation of the merger of the BEST budget with principal budget of the BMC, employee service residences etc; Visuals from Dharavi BEST depot. pic.twitter.com/7Sz0E5sfTg— ANI (@ANI) January 11, 2019
Nearly 32,000 BEST employees are on indefinite strike since Tuesday over various demands, including higher salaries and merger of budgets. While the BMC is the richest municipal body in the country, BEST is a loss-making undertaking.
Commuters complained that auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers were charging much more than normal rates.
A PIL was filed in the Bombay High Court Thursday seeking a direction to BEST workers to end the strike. The court will be hearing it on Friday.
The BEST has a fleet of over 3,200 buses, which criss-cross the metropolis and also operate services in the neighbouring Thane district and Navi Mumbai. It is the second-biggest mode of transport in Mumbai after the local trains.
(With PTI inputs)