Mumbai: BEST workers oppose point-to-point services with only drivers, no conductors

Iram Siddique
Mumbai: BEST workers oppose point-to-point services with only drivers, no conductors

Earlier, the BEST undertaking had launched two routes on which passengers can purchase a ticket before they board. On Monday, another 12 such routes were started in Andheri. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

Citing an 1964 agreement, the BEST Workers’ Union has accused the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking of “unfair trade practices” and opposed their point-to-point bus operations with just a driver and no conductor. BEST Workers’ Union, led by Shashank Rao, has sought a stay on the driver-only operations and filed a case in the labour court in the matter.

The 1964 agreement, signed between the BEST administration and the union, states every bus must have a driver and a conductor, while double-decker buses should have a driver and two conductors, Rao said. “The conductor not only give tickets but also is responsible for the overall running of the bus. He assists the driver while taking a turn and in other critical situations. This move [of operating buses without a conductor] is akin to running buses in an unsafe condition,” he said.

Accusing the BEST administration of gradually moving towards privatisation, he said, “They have already passed a resolution in their committee for awarding a contract for fare collection to a third party. Soon, an agency will be appointed that will collect fare across all depots while the workers will be rendered jobless.”

Earlier, the BEST undertaking had launched two routes on which passengers can purchase a ticket before they board. On Monday, another 12 such routes were started in Andheri.

BEST officials, meanwhile, claimed that operating buses with only a driver would help the undertaking reduce operation costs. “The staff from these buses can be deployed elsewhere. There is no retrenchment. The cost-effectiveness will only enable us to continue running buses at subsidised rates,” a senior official from BEST added.

The point-to-point bus services, officials said, was also being looked as a way to save the iconic double-decker buses of the city. BEST administration said it was mulling over introducing double-decker bus services from Bandra East to commercial hubs, such as Diamond Compound and BKC, on four different routes.

According to a proposal, each of these double-decker buses would have one conductor in the lower deck instead of one each on both its decks.

It would enable the BEST to reduce operational cost as they would require 39 conductors instead of the earlier 62, which would save about Rs 11.50 lakh per month, officials said. BEST is set to scrap 75 buses from its 120-bus strong fleet by June 2020.

BEST officials also pointed out that another clause of the 1964 agreement makes it binding only for three years, following which there is no clarity on the method to be adopted.