MUMBAI: More than 15,000 BEST staffers have been paid “zero” monthly salary for May. Sources in BEST’s staff union said on Saturday that this follows a pay cut for days that the employees remained absent since March amid the Covid-19 crisis and susbsequent lockdown. With no salary in hand, many workers have been left counting every penny they have, the sources claimed.
Even as the Union said it plans to contest the management’s decision, senior officials in the BEST justified the action to cut salaries.
Union leader Shashank Rao said, “It is inhuman… Families of these employees will have expenses to incur.”
The salary cut comes close on the heels of the management sending departmental chargesheets to more 1,000 BEST drivers, conductors and 700 staffers from the power supply division on Friday for being absent for a period between 15 days and over two months. A departmental chargesheet is an official memo listing actions tantamount to ‘dereliction of duty’.
A senior BEST official justified the pay-cut action, saying that it had been done in keeping with an internal circular, warned employees against remaining absent. “The government has directed BEST to provide service for those on essential service duty, to transport citizens to quarantine centres, migrants to railway stations and, more recently, ferry office-goers. These are frontline workers… These BEST employees cannot shirk their responsibilities,” said the BEST official.
A top management official alleged that a few employees were staying within the city in BEST’s staff quarters, but did not report to work. “At the same time, there are others who showed dedication and have taken risks by joining duty… So, we cannot pardon those who have been absent for long,” the top official said.
Rao said that the pay deduction for 30 days and above, which resulted in zero salary this month, was unwarrranted and illegal. “There is a March 29 state circular that salaries should not be deducted in this crisis,” he said, adding that many had genuine reasons to be absent. “Shiv Sena should be sympathetic to these workers as most of them are sons of the soil. We will contest the decision,” he said.