After a series of protests and token strikes, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) employees across the country have decided to launch an indefinite strike from December 3 for their demands. They will also be demanding implementation of ‘categorical assurance’ that had been given by the Centre on February 24 this year.
Implementation of 3rd Pay revision with 15 percent fitment, allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL as per the proposal submitted by the BSNL management, revision of pension of the BSNL retirees with effect from January 1, 2017, payment of pension contribution by BSNL as per the government rule and settlement of the left out issues of 2nd pay revision committee are the demands of the employees and unions. The indefinite strike call has been given by All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB), a common platform for all unions and associations.
“On February 24, in a meeting with the representatives of various unions and associations, minister of state for communication had given assurance that a cabinet note will be taken for the consideration of the union cabinet for getting exemption from the affordability clause of of 3rd Pay revision Committee, and setting 3rd Pay Revision to BSNL employees along with others,” said Swapan Chakraborty, the deputy general secretary of BSNL Employees Union- one of the leading unions associated with AUAB.
Read More: BSNL Employees Oppose Carving Out of Separate Mobile Tower Company to Aid Pvt. Players
The unions have constantly been demanding allocation of the 4G spectrum to the BSNL. Every time, the government has rejected the appeal, saying that the public sector is incurring losses. But, the unions have a different version. According to them, the public sector telecom service provider has been performing much better amidst all the negligence from the government.
When each and every other service provider offers 4G services, BSNL could only offer 3G services. As BSNL cannot provide 4G services for their customers, the existing customers will move away from BSNL, and BSNL will be thrown out of the market, K Sebastian of Sanchar Nigam Executives' Association (SNEA) told Newsclick earlier.
“Though the government says that the BSNL was running into losses during the last financial year, BSNL put an operational profit of 1684 crores,” said Sebastian. The current net asset value of BSNL is Rs 1.15 lakh crore compared to Rs 44,000 crore last year. As per the latest update, BSNL, along with Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), the two public sector undertaking (PSU) access service providers, held 67.65 percent of the wireline market shares as on August 31, 2018.
Read More: Claiming Victory in Defeat: The Spectrum Auction Fiasco
“During the February 24 meeting, the minister assured that 4G spectrum allotment would be done soon, and on the issue of payment of pension contribution by BSNL, he assured that government rule would be made applicable to BSNL also. Further, the minister favourably responded to the demand of pension revision to BSNL retirees,” added Chakraborty.
Though eight months have passed after the meeting, none of the assurances has been implemented. While, the workers have been raising the same issues again and again. “Following this, on November 11, the DoT has issued a letter to the CMD BSNL wherein virtually our demands on 3rd Pay Revision, allotment of 4G spectrum and implementation of government rule for payment of pension contribution have been rejected,” said AUAB in a press release.
The adamant stand of the Centre on the public telecommunication operator led to the indefinite strike call. “We have appealed to all the unions and associations to be the part of the strike to defend the public sector,” told Chakraborty. Apart from BSNLEU, other leading association like SNEA, NFTE and AIBSNLEA will unitedly come under AUAB for the indefinite strike.
View More: Antrix-Devas deal: A deal that did not make commercial sense