Services of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) were badly hit across the state since Thursday morning due to a "spontaneous" agitation by its employees over their various demands, including DA merger with salary, officials said.
The bus operations at several depots of the state-run transport undertaking, including at Mumbai Central, where the MSRTC's headquarters is located, were stopped in support of the agitation, they said.
A spokesperson of the MSRTC told PTI that they were in process gathering details, and confirmed that the bus operations at several depots in Maharashtra were affected due to the employees' agitation.
The MSRTC is one of the biggest public transport corporations in the county with a fleet of more than 16,000 buses and around 93,000 employees, including drivers and conductors. Before the pandemic, around 65 lakh passengers used to travel in the MSRTC buses every day.
According to transport union sources, the operations at 100 to 125 bus depots across Maharashtra were affected due to the "spontaneous agitation" by the employees since morning.
A union leader said no strike call was given by any recognised transport union.
They started the agitation spontaneously for their demands for merger of the dearness allowance (DA) with salary and merger of the MSRTC with the state government, he said.
"An action committee of the MSRTC employees' union has started an indefinite agitation for these demands, but no call was given for a strike. The employees have spontaneously stopped bus operations in support of the agitation," the leader said.
Earlier this week, state Transport Minister Anil Parab, who is also chairman of the MSRTC, had declared a hike in the DA of the corporation's employees to 17 per cent from the existing 12 per cent, besides payment of October salary before the Diwali festival on November 1, instead of the scheduled 7th day of each month.
Parab had also announced "Diwali Bhet" (bonus) of Rs 2,500 and Rs 5,000 for the MSRTC employees and officers, respectively.
The MSRTC is going through tremendous financial stress as its operations have been affected since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reeling under losses and rising diesel prices, the MSRTC on Monday hiked fares across all its services, except night express buses, with ticket prices going up by minimum Rs 5 and travel in AC 'Shivneri' buses between Mumbai's Dadar and Swargate in Pune now costing Rs 525 instead of Rs 450.