Agitation by Mumbai’s suburban motorman and guards

Central Railway suburban rail motormen strike work

On 10th of August 2018, from the morning hours hundreds of Motormen of Central Railway, led by their joint unions refused to do overtime work. Over the course of the day, this resulted in cancellation of hundreds of trains. The agitation was led by CRMS (Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh and supported by the Joint Action Forum (consisting of AILRSA, RKS, All India SC/ST Association and All India OBC Association) as well as by all the motormen.

The motormen were protesting the removal from service of a motorman who had overshot a signal. This is known as Signal Passing at Danger (as SPAD). They said that there were 227 vacancies which the authorities were refusing to fill out of a total sanctioned staff strength of 898, resulting in a huge pressure on the 671 working motormen. Even though the extra workload is borne by the motormen by doing overtime, still the railways cannot manage all the services, resulting in daily cancellation of eight to 10 trains. Every cancellation of a train during peak hours results in an extra passenger load of 4000 on the next train. During non-peak hours, this results in an extra load of 2000 passengers on the next train. Considering that the carrying capacity of a 12 coach train is 2,000 and that at peak load the train is already overloaded with upto 5000 people, the extra load of 4000 people resulting in cancellation of a train means that a train which is designed to carry 2000 people is now bursting at the seams with 9000 people. This is one of the main reasons behind train accidents on the suburban train network. In 2017, 654 passengers died and 1434 were injured on the Central Railway Suburban railway after falling off crowded trains.

Also due to vacancies, motormen are working under pressure, resulting in them overshooting platform limits and missing signals. If a motorman misses or overshoots a signal he is punished with loss of job or compulsory retirement. The sacking of one of the motormen due to overshooting a signal just recently was the reason for the agitation of the motormen. The motormen are already overworked due to increased number of signals, their close proximity, different types of EMU rakes, continuous pressure by authorities to maintain punctuality and trespassing by people on the tracks. All this leads to overshooting a signal. Apart from this they have to bear the extra burden of maintaining the running of the trains, by doing extra long hours of work, due to severe shortage of motormen in the Central Railway.

These were the reasons which caused the motormen to go on agitation on the 10th of August. The severe impact of the strike action on commuter traffic caused the authorities to call the motormen’s unions for talks. The authorities promised them that they would reinstate the dismissed motorman. They also promised that in future motormen would not be summarily dismissed for SPAD. They further promised to immediately fill 48 of the vacancies and the remaining within a short period. Following these assurances, the motormen’s unions called off their agitation.

Western Railway suburban rail guards strike work

From 13th of August to 17th of August 2018, hundreds of Guards of the Western Railway refused to do overtime work. Again like in the agitation of Central Railway Motormen, this action of the Guards of Western Railway resulted in cancelling of 30 to 40 trains each day. Their agitation was led by a Joint Forum of all the Unions of Western Railway, including AIGC, WREU, WRMS, RKS, All India SC/ST Association and All India OBC Association.

There is a severe shortage of Guards in the Mumbai suburban section of Western Railway. Of the required strength of around 500 guards there are only 400 guards working! This means a shortfall of 100 guards. The result of this is that the existing guards have to work extra hours and this was the cause of the protest by the Guards. Seeing the united stand of the Guards of the Western Railway, the authorities were forced to talk to the agitating guards on the 17th of August and agree to their demands.

MEL salutes the struggle of the Motormen and Guards of Central and Western Railways and calls on the Indian Railways to fulfil their just demands.


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