- The running staff have been provided with a mileage allowance since colonial British times
- A running staff works on a train for about 8,000-10,000 miles a month
- Over 3,000 miles of mileage information cannot be inputted into iBAS++ software due to technical limitation
- Due to lack of manpower, running staff work extra hours over and above their daily 12-hour official duty shift
The drivers, guards and ticket checkers on trains – called railway running staff – used to get a special overtime allowance, equal to one day's basic salary, for operating every 100 miles, or every 8 hours they work, in addition to their prescribed duty.
But as the department started using a special software named iBAS++ in 2020 to pay salaries and allowances of railway workers, their allowances shrank, railway sources said.
The finance ministry reduced the 150-year-old allowance because the software cannot handle entries more than 3,000 miles a month.
Railway workers said a running staff has to be on a train for about 8,000-10,000 miles a month.
As a result, even after working extra hours, they are being deprived of the benefit they have been provided with since British times. They failed to resolve the problem even after sending a letter to the railway ministry.
Now, the running staff of Bangladesh Railway demand that the mileage allowance be reinstated as before.
In response to an appeal of the railway in this regard, the finance ministry set the highest mileage allowance equal to the salary of 30 working days.
But drivers, guards and ticket-checkers on trains are reluctant to do extra work with reduced allowances. They have been staging demonstrations in different parts of the country for the last few weeks to protest reduced mileage allowances. They have warned of tougher agitation if the issue is not resolved immediately.
On Wednesday, following a series of demonstrations for several weeks to press their demand, leaders and activists of the Railway Shramik League and the running staff staged a protest in front of the office of the general manager of the east zone of Bangladesh Railway in the CRB area of Chattogram.
They warned of more stringent movement in phases if their demand is not met immediately.
Mohammad Sajjad Hossain, central organising secretary of the Bangladesh Railway Sramik League, said, "The number of running staff in the Bangladesh railway is about 3,000.
"They have to work longer hours than scheduled due to a lack of manpower. Most drivers, guards and ticket-checkers work 12-16 hours a day. Reducing the mileage allowance in the iBAS++ software will trigger a big crisis for the workers as well as the railways."
According to the running staff of the railway, the Railway Act provides running staff with leave and recreation allowances and the addition of 75% of their basic pay to retirement gratuity. But the new rule does not have these benefits for the running staff and so about 3,000 running staff of the railways have started a movement all over the country.
Jobeda Akhter, assistant general manager of the east zone of Bangladesh Railways, said, "An initiative has been taken to increase the salaries and allowances of railway workers through Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). The accounts department of the railway has been directed to resolve the matter expeditiously. Hopefully, the demands of the running staff and the arrears of salaries and allowances will be resolved soon."