The state-run telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has decided to retrench its contractual workers in the name of cutting down “avoidable expenditure”. Thirty percent of contractual workers are being laid off from BSNL which is struggling to breathe because of liquidity crunch and negligence from the Centre.
“During the various review meetings with the higher management, the liquidity position and financial crunch in BSNL had been discussed and it was decided to issue necessary instructions/guidelines immediately to reduce the expenditure in the various items including outsourcing Contract Labour,” said the letter, dated June, from the company’s corporate office to all the circle heads across the country.
“In a few circles, the management has already implemented this new decision and contractual workers were laid off,” said VAN Namboodiri, president of BSNL Casual and Contract Workers’ Federation adding, “In Kerala, workers were retrenched in certain districts, while in others, the workers are strongly opposing the move and protests have been organised.”
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The contractual workers who have already been retrenched have not received their pending wages. Wages of contractual workers are pending for the last five months all across the country. While in certain circles like Western Uttar Pradesh, the workers have not been getting wages for the past 10-11 months.
“There is no clarity about the pending wages of the retrenched workers. Apart from this, the upper age limit of the contractual workers has been moved to 58 from 60,” said Namboodiri.
These contractual workers are usually employed through various contractors. However, they get wages and other service benefits from BSNL itself. When the contractors have sought money from BSNL in the past five months, the management has said that they have no money owing to the financial crisis.
The performance report of the respective circles is expected to be submitted on June 20 by the circle heads. The management has also decided to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on landline and broadband exchanges.
"Hence, suitable measures may be taken to reduce expenditure on outsourcing in the administrative/operational activities in field - house keeping, security and data feeding. Thus a thorough review of all outsourcing contracts involving labour should be done with a view to reduce expenditure and obtain savings," the letter added.
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Namboodiri told NewsClick: “The workers who are working on certain projects can continue with their work. But new tenders not being given. So, the workers have to leave after their current work.”
BSNL has been finding it difficult to survive in the highly competitive telecom industry, especially without any help from the central government. In March this year, first time in BSNL’s 18 years, the company was not able to pay salary to about 1.68 lakh regular employees and the issue was sorted after a month.
Recently, the Minister for Communications and IT Ravishankar Prasad said that the BSNL and MTNL have to be more professional and adapt competitive methods. On the other hand, unions and workers have been alleging that BSNL was not allowed to grow for 10 years from 2004.
In January 2018, the then Minister of State for Communications, Manoj Sinha, had assured the All India Unions and Associations of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (AUAB) that BSNL would be allotted 4G spectrum. However, the company has still not been allotted the 4G spectrum.
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