Salary delays at Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) continue to haunt its employees, prompting unions to allege that the decision to slash the company’s manpower via a voluntary retirement exercise carried out more than a year ago – without realising other commitments to achieve the “financial revival” of the state-owned telecom company – has only deepened the crisis. The employees have also planned a hunger strike in protest on July 28.
Salaries for the month of June haven’t been to the workforce at BSNL yet, Newsclick learned on Saturday. This was further confirmed by BSNL Employees Union (BSNLEU) general secretary Abhimanyu P., who claimed that the “sorry state of affairs has persisted for the past one-and-half-years,” hinting that a delay in disbursement had become the new norm.
It was March 2019 when a delay in salary payments for the permanent workforce in BSNL was reported for the first time.
A voluntary retirement offer was put on the table for BSNL staffers in November 2019, ostensibly to reduce the wage bill, as part of the revival plan of the public telecom enterprises that also included Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited (MTNL).
The plan, announced in October that year by the then Union Minister for Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad, additionally targeted the administrative allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL and debt restructuring, among other moves, reportedly to nurse back the “strategic”, but heavily bleeding companies to profitability over the next years.
However, more than a year later, with close to 80,000 employees opting to retire prematurely, the financial revival of BSNL, “remains a distant dream,” allege employees’ bodies. What’s more, the companies are now staring at staff shortage, as per media reports.
“… the objective of achieving the financial revival of BSNL remains a distant dream, even after one year and eight months of announcement of BSNL’s Revival Package. BSNL has not launched its 4G service so far, which is severely hampering the very existence of the Company (sic),” All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) wrote in a notice letter on Thursday.
The letter, addressed to BSNL Chairman and Telecom Secretary, noted that that the existing staff hasn’t been paid their salary, “on the due date”. The umbrella front has called for a hunger strike in protest on July 28.
Abhimanyu told Newsclick that the prevailing conditions at BSNL were due to the “failure of the management,” in reviving the telecom company; it which was further met with “conscious roadblocks” created by the Narendra Modi – led Central Government, he alleged.
“The Centre is forcing BSNL to procure 4G equipment from domestic vendors, thereby causing unwarranted delay in the rolling out of the services. This is even so when private players’ equipment too has been reportedly purchased from foreign vendors,” he said.
Moreover, the delay in launching 4G services is only accompanied by the slow process of monetising the assets of BSNL’s surplus land parcels, according to him. “At the same time, a huge amount of Rs. 39,000 crore to be paid by DoT (Department of Telecommunications) to BSNL remains pending,” Abhimanyu said.
All of this showed the “non-seriousness” of the Modi government to rescue the dwindling BSNL, alleged Abhimanyu. The employees will thus stage a hunger strike across the country to put pressure on the government to pay heed to their demands, he added.