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The striking unions wanted the "factor" for revision to be fixed at 2.57 while the government insisted it be 2.44. The strike began on Thursday evening when many bus drivers in Chennai were seen abandoning their buses between 5pm and 8 pm.

The unions, including DMK-affiliated LPF and CITU, rejected the state government's ultimatum to return to work or face "consequences", issued following the court directive.

Transport workers have been demanding for a pay revision to Rs 30,000.

MR Vijayabhaskar, TN Transport Minister, said, "Appeal to employees to come back for duty, the honorable court has also asked them to come back".

As the strike entered the second day on Friday crippling operation of the eight transport corporation running about 21,000 buses, the first bench of the High Court headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee ordered the workers to resume work or face the outcome including termination and contempt of court.

The trade unions had, however, said their agitation would continue till their demands on wage revision were met by the state government. If the government takes action, the employees must face it. The High Court said that the government could take action against those who have stopped work.

Around 1.8 crore passengers avail the bus services across the state, reports said. 'Out of the 145 buses from the Central depot only 50 buses were operated, similarly only 20 buses were operated from the Thiruvottiyur bus terminus out of the total 110 buses and only 33 buses were operated from the Tambaram depot, ' sources added.

Shanmugam said it has been decided that various central trade unions such as CITU and AITUC will stage state-wide protests on January 8 in support of the striking transport workers. In Madurai, Salem and Tirunelveli very few buses plied.

Private bus operators were also finding it hard as they were not aware of the routes and where to stop.

Apart from the latest talks, the trade unions have earlier held 10 rounds of talks with the government and have demanded an increase of 2.57% hike. On the other hand, former transport minister Senthil Balaji, a supporter of T T V Dhinakaran, came out in support of the striking unions and faulted the government for the strike.

Meanwhile, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president M.K. Stalin spoke to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy over the telephone and expressed concern over the ongoing transport strike, urging the government to expedite talks with the unions.