On 28 August, the state bus company (MSRTC) management and the transport minister announced that pregnant MSRTC workers would receive an additional three months’ paid leave, which can be taken during pregnancy, on top of the existing six months’ paid maternity leave.
They were prompted to act in the face of a public and media outcry over the findings of an MSTKS survey of a random sample of 400 of the union’s 5,500 women members. This revealed that over one quarter who had been pregnant had suffered a miscarriage:
- 168 (42 percent) of those surveyed were pregnant while working
- 138 (85 percent) of the pregnant workers asked for a light job or desk work
- Only 60 of those requests (43 percent) were granted
- Of the 78 women whose requests were refused, 48 (62 percent) suffered a miscarriage
The union believes the high rates of miscarriage are due to the physically demanding nature of the job, including injuries caused by the poor condition of the roads and buses.
Sheela Naikwade, MSTKS women organiser and ITF project co-ordinator, said: “Finally, we have action to try to reduce the number of miscarriages among bus conductors. With ITF’s support we have been able to persuade the transport minister and the company to act and have won this great achievement.”
Jodi Evans, ITF women transport workers equality officer, commented that this was a great victory for a group of previously ignored minority workers, and was the result of sustained and growing union activism of women and men standing together to fight for justice and the courage of women workers who spoke out about their miscarriages.
The campaign helped MSTKS bring hundreds of women into union activism for the first time and won reserved seats for women at every level of the union.
Read the MSTKS survey results in full – one finding was that 94 percent of respondents reported having experienced sexual harassment, with 84 percent of this group reporting harassment by management/officer/other male colleagues/seniors while on duty.
See women bus conductors speaking about their experiences in this short news video (Marathi only).