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Delhi HC puts brakes on Metro employees’ proposed strike

New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) In a major relief to lakhs of commuters, the Delhi High Court on Friday restrained a section of the Delhi Metro employees from going on a proposed strike from Friday midnight over their demands relating to pay hike and promotions.

Hearing a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) plea, Justice Vipin Sanghi restrained the staff council members from going on strike till further order.

“Considering the fact that the petitioner (DMRC) is running a public utility service that caters to 25 lakh citizens of Delhi on a daily basis, who come largely from middle income group… I am inclined to grant ad-interim relief as sought,” he said.

The action of the DMRC staff does not prima facie appear to be “justified or legal” as sufficient notice has not been given to the DMRC, said the court, taking into note DMRC’s submission that it was ready and willing to resolve its disputes with the workers so as to fully implement the settlement arrived at on June 23, 2017.

Noting that conciliation proceedings are still in progress, the court said: “The respondents (DMRC staff) are restrained from going on strike on June 30 till further orders in the matter.”

Hours before the court order, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the protesting staff to not go on strike and even warned of invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), if required, to stop the strike.

“Whereas all genuine demands of Metro employees should be met, the strike will cause inconvenience to lakhs of people. The strike should not take place. Whereas government will impose ESMA as a last resort, I urge the employees to not resort to strike,” Kejriwal said in a tweet.

The DMRC is engaged in a dispute with its non-executive employees over pay scales and arrears. The 9,000 such employees had warned of a strike from Saturday if their demands were not met.

This workforce consists of station controllers, drivers, technicians, and other maintenance staff and facilitates day-to-day operations of the Metro.

These employees held a symbolic protest from June 19 onwards by holding sit-ins at platforms, wearing black armbands and boycotting lunch and rest hours. They threatened to go on a total strike from June 30.

The bone of contention, the employees said, is a 2007 DMRC rule through which the corporation had come up with two pay scales for executive and non-executive staff, entitling the former to pay grades/scales given to ‘Schedule A’ public sector units and a lower and different grade for the latter.

As per a compromise struck between the employees and the DMRC on July 23 last year, the corporation was to carry out some modifications in the pay grade and grant the protesting employees their arrears from July 1, 2015. However, the deal fell through subsequently.

The DMRC on Friday told the high court that the issue of implementation of the settlement is pending consideration before the Regional Labour Commissioner, Delhi.