BSNL Contract Workers on Hunger Strike in Kozhikode Against Outsourcing Regime, Delayed Payments
BSNL contract workers in Kozhikode SSA staging a dharna in front of the General Manager’s office on April 17. (Image Courtesy: C K Vijayan)
Kozhikode: The contract and casual workers in BSNL have been facing the challenges of being overworked and underpaid for the past several years. The sufferings have multiplied after the introduction of outsourcing work and the possibility of permanent jobs being ruled out.
The casual and contract workers in Kozhikode and Wayanad districts, which fall under the Kozhikode SSA of BSNL, are on a relay hunger strike since April 18. They are protesting against the highhandedness of the outsourcing agencies, delay in wage disbursal and denial of social welfare measures from the franchisees.
Outsourcing has resulted in the reduction of wages by around 50% while the number of workers engaged has come down by 60%. The number of contract workers across the state has reduced to around 2,000 from 7,500 after the introduction of outsourcing.
The workers are accusing the BSNL, the principal employer, of remaining silent despite repeated representations over the violations from the companies engaged. The contract workers have resolved to continue the hunger strike until their demands are met.
‘OUTSOURCING CRUEL ON WORKERS’
The BSNL management implemented outsourcing of work in 2020, which rang alarm bells for casual and contract workers. The wages paid through the franchises were cut down drastically, and the workers were denied employees state insurance (ESI) and employees provident fund (EPF), which were ensured by BSNL during their tenure as casual and contract workers.
The workers in Kozhikode SSA are feeling the impact of outsourcing. They decided to sit on a relay hunger strike after delayed payment of wages and withdrawal of ESI and EPF under the outsourcing regime.
Speaking to NewsClick, C K Vijayan, organising secretary of the BSNL Casual and Contract Workers Federation (BSNLCCWF) Kerala, explained the plights of the workers. “The workers are exploited by the franchises after the introduction of outsourcing in BSNL. the workers are paid only two-thirds of the wages compared to when BSNL was employing them as casual and contract workers”, he said.
V A N Namboothiri, president of BSNLCCWF greeting the workers on hunger strike on April 18 (Image Courtesy: C K Vijayan).
Vijayan himself had worked as a contract worker in BSNL for 34 years and was forced to leave the job after the companies set 56 as the upper age limit for employment. Most of the workers who served in the category expecting a permanent job are left in the lurch with the government ignoring BSNL in favour of private telecom companies.
“After reducing the regular employees by implementing the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), the BSNL implemented outsourcing. Those who served for 20 to 30 years were forced to leave the job by the franchises and those who were retained are now paid much less wages”, Vijayan said.
‘BSNL SILENT ON EXPLOITATION’
The BSNLCCWF has approached the BSNL, the principal employer to bring an end to the attitude of the franchise towards the contract workers, but to no avail.
The union has accused the BSNL management of not addressing the issues faced by the workers, leading them to stage dharna on April 17 and launching a hunger strike from the next day, which was inaugurated by V A N Namboodiri, the national president of the BSNLCCWF.
“The security workers are paid Rs 13,000 now instead of Rs 19,000. The conservancy workers are just paid between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3000 in the SSA. other workers including clerical, computer staff, cable maintenance and technical are paid very low wages,” Vijayan said.
The union has accused the franchises of getting the money from the BSNL and not paying wages to the workers. Those who were paid Rs 15,000 to Rs 19,000 are now paid below Rs 8,000. Most of the workers struggling for wages include women involved in cleaning offices and managerial work.
“Three contract workers have committed suicide in the last couple of years due to non-payment and delayed payment of wages. The federation is educating the workers on the need to fight and survive against the exploitations and not to end their lives,” Vijayan added.
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