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19 April 2007

BEST of Bombay ko bachao

The BEST red bus service is the lifeline and lifeblood of Mumbai life.

Striking employees means holding an entire city, citizens and adminsitration to ransom. But serving dismissal notices to more than 35,000 employees who are trying to only protect their source of income is scary in the sense that it reminds me of the harsh, uncompromising and "we will not bargain" stance of the textile strike many decades ago. It left a city bleeding, with wounds that have not healed to this day.

Employees are not terrorists so sound bytes of "we will not/do not bargain" needs to be considered carefully. As I learnt from one of my wonderful boss and mentor many years ago- Remember it is not enought to be fair. It must also appear to be fair.

Labour policies that are just, fair and more than anything else compassionate need to be balanced with a non-compromising stance on other aspects such as discipline, productivity and work ethics. But I do know that when all of Bombay goes on strikes, the BEST employees always save the day. We have taken this service for granted for far too long.

The employees of BEST (like their other counterparts in public or govt sector)compare poorly with their counterparts in private sector in terms of pay, housing, health, security benefits. Ever spared a thought for the postal worker in Mumbai. Any post office is a frightening display of poor working conditions and yet the postal employees work! The BEST drivers and conductors work long hours in harsh conditions and to my knowledge are corruption free. Yes, the red bus driver does behave like the king of the jungle that is the Mumbai roads, but for today I am willing to set aside this resentment.

Not being sensitive to their needs, demands and conditions gives a whole new slant to save the BEST for the last.

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