Drivers and conductors of the state-run BMTC (Bangalore Municipal Transport Corporation) buses have been forced for the past several months, to work for more than 12 hours every day due to the “cost cutting” measures introduced by the corporation during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have appealed to the Karnataka state government on February 5, to reduce their work hours to 8.
The BMTC has around 1,500 women conductors. These women conductors, in particular, have to work in terrible conditions, due to lack of basic facilities such as restrooms and affordable catering services. In addition, payment of their salaries has been delayed.
In an appeal made through a video message to Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, who is also the Transport Minister, the women bus conductors have pointed out that the 8-hour duty condition is being flagrantly violated. During rest hours, they cannot go home. There is no restroom for women. They cannot take rest inside the bus. Many of them report to depots at 6 a.m. and leave at 9 p.m. They have to leave their young children at home for more than 12 hours at a stretch. They often have to spend 12 to 14 hours on the bus. On top of all this, they have not been paid their salaries on time, as a result of which they are facing problems in paying rent, school fees and power bills. The women conductors have appealed to the CM and transport authorities that the 8 hour working shift be restored and timely payment of their salaries be ensured.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the BMTC ridership was greatly reduced. According to a BMTC official, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, more than 35 lakh people used to avail of its services every day. Now, the number is less than 20 lakh. Earlier, more than 70,000 trips were operated per day, but now the number is down to less than 50,000. In these conditions, the BMTC management, in the name of “cost cutting” measures, greatly increased the exploitation of the workers, replacing the 8 hour shift system with a 12-hour work day with just 2 – 3 hours rest in between.
The women bus conductors of the BMTC are determined to resist this super-exploitation. The demands for a 8-hour shift and payment of salaries on time are important demands they have raised, along with others, as part of the strike warning given by all the bus transport workers of Karnataka.