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Odishatv Bureau

Mumbai: As many as seven agitating staffers of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) have been suspended and arrested for engaging in violence here on Friday.

MSRTC’s five staffers, including drivers and conductors, were suspended when they forced a senior MSRTC functionary at Saoner depot under Nagpur division to wear bangles, a senior government official said.

A case was reported in this regard with the nearest police station and the five were arrested, the official added.

Two more staffers were suspended and later arrested by police from Ramtek depot in Nagpur when they engaged in violence and threw stones at private buses.

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The strike called by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) employees demanding an increase in their salaries as per the 7th Pay Commission recommendations today entered the fifth day.

The MSRTC representatives have so far went through several rounds of meetings with the State government but to no avail. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has refused to hold further talks till the MSRTC employees resume their duties.

The strike has kept a fleet of 19,000 buses operated by MSRTC from running across the State, along with almost 1 lakh MSRTC employees. The MSRTC has already agreed to hike salaries of its employees as per the recommendations by the 7th Pay Commission. This would have reportedly increase MSRTC employees' salaries by Rs 4,000 to Rs 15,000 depending on their seniority and put additional burden of Rs 1,100 crore on the corporation. However, the employee unions are dissatisfied with the hike.

"We tried to present the options with the maximum possible hike. But the unions remain dissatisfied with the amount sanctioned. We have tried to offer the maximum hike ever in the 77-year history of the organisation. We appeal to them to withdraw the strike," the State Transport Minister Diwakar Raote said.

Raote met the representatives of MSRTC employees for a lengthy discussion over the matter on Wednesday, but without any results. The employee unions are not willing to call off the strike before their demands are met. On the other hand, the State government claims that demands for salary hike cannot be met as the state transport corporation cannot afford to award the pay rise being demanded.

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Earlier in July, Maharashtra agreed to adopt the suggestions made by the 7th Pay Commission regarding pay and pension, but maintained that it would take around nine months to fully implement the changes mentioned by the pay panel.

While the state government urged the MSRTC employees to return to their jobs as commuters were facing troubles, the MSRTC employee unions blamed government for the impasse. "As per the rule, we had given a notice for strike 40 days in advance. But the administration remained under the impression that we would accept their terms," PTI quoted a senior member of the state transport as saying.

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