The employees of state-owned telecom service provider, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)—which has been struggling to survive—have not been paid salaries in October and November yet again. This is not the first time, recent incidents show that the delay in the payment of salaries is becoming a new normal in BSNL.
Raising the issues related to salaries, All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) will hold a lunch hour demonstration on Wednesday, December 4, in all circles and district head quarters as well as the corporate office. Along with timely salaries, the employees also demand “no discrimination in respect of disbursement of salary, between the BSNL employees and the ITS (Indian Telecommunication Services) officers on deputation.”
Meanwhile, contract workers across the country have not been paid their wages for the last 11 months. But, in certain circles including Western Uttar Pradesh, wages for more than 16 months are pending.
The entire telecom sector in the country itself is in a crisis. However, this may bring some relief for BSNL in the form of . Recently, private telecom service providers Airtel and Vodafone Idea have increased their call charge and data charge by upto 45%, while Reliance Jio has also announced increase in it’s tariffs by 40%.
“The increase in tariffs announced by all the three private operators is certainly a huge one. Now, BSNL should also increase its tariffs to match with the private operators tariffs. This will help BSNL to come out of the crisis,” said BSNL Employees Union in a statement.
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“At this juncture, with the allotment of 4G spectrum and drastic increase in call and data charges, BSNL is likely to come out of its financial crisis soon. Hence, those employees who had opted for VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) fearing about the future financial condition of BSNL, can very well withdraw their VRS options,” added the statement.
BSNL has also urged the telecom department to deploy an adequate number of senior ITS officers on key managerial positions to ensure uninterrupted service to its customers. The company has rolled out VRS to reduce the number of employees and “related expenses”. So far, over 92,000 BSNL and MTNL employees have opted for VRS. Along with this, the BSNL management is looking at savings of about Rs 7,000 crore in wage bill, if 70,000-80,000 personnel opt for the scheme.
A total of 1 lakh BSNL employees are eligible for VRS out of its total staff strength of about 1.50 lakh. The effective date of voluntary retirement under the present scheme is January 31, 2020. However, December 3 is the last day for applying for VRS.
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After the announcement of VRS, BSNL Human Resource Director Arvind Vadnerkar has written to the DoT citing its Chairman and Managing Director PK Purwar’s request in July for deployment of 200 additional ITS officers apart from existing 550 personnel already deployed at the organisation on important senior managerial positions at the public sector firm.
"BSNL is passing through a crisis situation where manning all the key managerial positions is the need of the hour for ensuring uninterrupted service to valuable customers in the best business interest of the company," Vadnerkar said in the letter.
The government in October approved a Rs 68,751 crore revival package for loss-making BSNL and MTNL, including 4G spectrum allocation and voluntary retirement scheme, as well as their merger.
Vadnerkar said that periodical change in the posting of officers is desirable to meet urgent manpower requirement across the field but some officers engage with the DoT to seek favourable orders to stay in the same circle or area where they were posted.
The BSNL HR Director said there are some 32 ITS (Indian Telecommunications Service) officers seeking relief from BSNL, who have either been selected for deputation or are to be repatriated back to DoT in accordance with the orders of the department.
According to ITS Association, the officers deployed at BSNL by the DoT have repeatedly expressed concern over the delay in payment of salaries, dues and discriminatory treatment meted out to them.
The association’s representatives said that the BSNL is running short of officers because it has offered VRS to 803 senior level officers out of which 458 have opted for it.
"When BSNL needs Grade A level officers to man important positions, the management should not have offered them VRS. Instead of demanding ITS officers from the DoT, BSNL should send back around 550 ITS back to the department. This will help them in saving of over Rs 500 crore," ITS Association President PK Jain said.
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(With inputs from PTI)