The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Employee Union (BSNLEU) on Thursday organised a lunch hour demonstration while wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. The main demands of the employees include timely payment of salaries, rollback of the decision to increase daily working hours from eight to 12, etc.
BSNLEU has been opposing for long the Modi government’s labour law reforms that are in favour of the employers. “One such move was to amend the Factories Act, to increase the working hours beyond eight hours a day. However, the amendment of the labour laws is being stoutly resisted by the Central Trade Unions, which have gone on nationwide General Strikes. It is in this backdrop, that with the green signal from the Centre, certain state governments, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, etc., have increased the working hours from 8 hours a day to 12 hours a day,” stated a press release by the employees’ union, adding that this increase in working hours is a violation of the guidelines by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“The ILO has decided that the working hours should be 8 hours a day and 48 hours a week. Government of India has ratified this decision of the ILO and has all along been following it,” it read.
The employees’ union further pointed out that various state governments have amended the provisions in labour laws utilising the restrictions imposed on account of the lockdown.
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“The working class has achieved the 8 hour working day, by shedding blood and by making immense sacrifices. We cannot allow the government to increase the working hours beyond 8 hours a day. BSNLEU demands that the above mentioned state governments should immediately roll back the increase in the working hours,” it said.
Despite the steps taken by the Centre to revive the public sector telecom company, the condition of the BSNL workers—contractual as well as regular—has not improved. The BSNL management employees have not been receiving their salaries on time. The unions and associations have raised this issue multiple times. Even the salary for the month of April 2020, is being disbursed only on May 19. Earlier in 2019, the salaries were pending for more than two months.
“It is regrettable that payment of salary to the employees has become the last priority of the BSNL Management. We demand the on time payment of salary to the employees every month,” read the release.
The contract workers in BSNL have not been paid their wages for the past 10 months. At least 10 contract workers have committed suicide so far. This issue has been raised in the Parliament too. Further, the BSNL Corporate Office had issued a letter dated September 30, 2019, for the retrenchment of the contract workers, as well as for the reduction of their working hours.
Even after the imposition of a lockdown, contract workers have been still waiting for their long pending wages. Apart from this, the Tamil Nadu telecom circle alone has seen retrenchment of more than 220 workers during the lockdown. The BSNL management has resorted to outsourcing all its work, which was so far being done by the contract workers.
BSNLEU has demanded that the wage arrears of the contract workers be paid by the management immediately and it should give up all the measures aimed at retrenching the contract workers.
As the telecom sector falls under essential services, even during the lockdown, the BSNL employees are at work. However, the BSNL management has taken the retrograde step of curtailing the existing medical facilities of its employees.
According to the letter issued by the BSNL Management on May 8, 2020, the ceiling on expenditures to be incurred for Outdoor Treatment has been drastically reduced from 23 days to 15 days. “While the top officers of the Company are availing luxuries at the cost of the Company, it is highly deplorable that the existing medical facilities of the ordinary employees are being curtailed. BSNLEU demands that the Management should withdraw its letter dated 08.05.2020, and the ceiling on expenditure for Outdoor Treatment should be restored back to 23 days,” BSNLEU added.
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