There is a thin line between bargaining and blackmailing, particularly when it pertains to the collective interests of trade unions. By resorting to strike during the middle of the festival season when people are dependent on public transport to reach their destinations, the unions of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) have committed a grave mistake. It shows a deliberate intention to cause maximum hardship to the people. This is not the way to put pressure on the government to concede their set of demands. The wheels of development should not be allowed to halt in the name of exercising the right to protest. Irrespective of whether the demands are legitimate or not, the methods being adopted by the RTC unions are totally unjustified and evoke little sympathy from the public. In fact, they are widely seen as blackmailing tactics. Instead of becoming flag-bearers of change and participants in the growth of the organisation, the unions are simply shooting themselves in the foot by their misguided notions. One must realise that the days of the economic policies of the governments being held to ransom by militant trade unionism are over. In the post-liberalised economy, organisations, both state-owned and private, need to shed the old baggage of adversarial labour relations and make everyone an active participant in the organisational growth. Instead of being disruptive forces, the unions are required to contribute to the growth of the organisations, work for the genuine welfare of employees and promote productivity. The policy matters are better left to the elected governments of the day to decide.
The State government has done the right thing by refusing to succumb to the pressure tactics of the striking employees and quickly putting in place alternative arrangements to mitigate the hardship of the commuters. The government was quite liberal in giving a major salary hike when the employees went on a strike in 2015. The question that needs to be asked now is whether the services have improved in the last four years since the whopping pay out, whether the commuter has gained anything or whether the loss-making corporation needs to do such pampering. It is completely outside the ambit of the unions to make a demand like merger of the TSRTC with the government. At a time when the corporation is suffering an annual loss of Rs 1,200 crore, besides a debt of Rs 5,000 crore, the demand for further wage hikes carries no justification. The government’s bold move to involve private players in managing the transport sector will certainly lead to improvement in efficiency. There has been a swift response in terms of hiring new buses, roping in private buses with permits as stage carriers and recruiting new staff, including drivers.