The contract and casual workers of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) staged a day-long nation-wide dharna on July 16 insisting on a charter of demands. The workers are sitting on protest in the state capitals and in front of the corporate office of BSNL. The BSNL Employees’ Union (BSNLEU), and BSNL Casual and Contract Workers’ Federation (BSNLCCWF) are spearheading the protest.
The contract and casual workers numbering around 1,20,000 all over the country are demanding the immediate payment of salaries which have been pending for six months. The union government has been turning a blind eye towards the BSNL and its permanent and contract workers. The casual and contract workers are paid a much lower salary fixed on a region to region basis.
Trade Unions Accuse Government of Betraying BSNL and its Workers
The state president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) A Soundarrajan told NewsClick, “The Modi government has been denying the rights of the BSNL employees and workers by continuously rejecting the demands for loans and financial aid for the revival of the BSNL. But the government is providing all possible support to the private players like Jio by allocating spectrum and even loans. They are also permitted to provide free services to customers for a prolonged period violating the norms.”
Also read: Unions to hold Dharna on July 16 Demanding Revival of BSNL Instead of Retrenchment of Workers
The circle secretary of BSNLCCWF, C Vinoth said, “There are around 5,000 contract workers in Tamil Nadu circle alone. We are finding it hard to meet our daily expenses due to the non-payment of salary. We are unable to pay the house rent, pay the fees for our children and so on. In West Bengal circle, five contract workers have committed suicide since they could not afford to meet their day-to-day expenses. In spite of continuous representations and struggles, the Modi government and the BSNL management are not listening to the basic demands of the workers. If this continues, along with the other unions we will plan to further intensify the struggle to protect the workers as well as the company.”
Revive BSNL from Crisis
The other major demand is the revival of BSNL from the present crisis. The union government has been highly negligent of the demands of the various associations for necessary financial aid for the payment of salary for both permanent and contract workers. The crisis is being attributed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government’s policy of totally privatising important service providers. The recent decision to privatise various sections of the Indian Railways too is in line with the same policy of the Narendra Modi-led government. The repeated requests of the BSNL to create revenue from the huge assets, too, went unheard by the government.
For the first time in the history of BSNL, the regular employees were not paid their salaries on time and the power supply to BSNL cell phone towers were cut off due to non-payment of electricity bills. This resulted in poor service for the customers forcing them to desert BSNL and shift to other private service providers.
Workers Demand No Retrenchment, Ensure Social Welfare Measures
The BSNL management has also planned to retrench contract workers, reduce the number of working days and wages to reduce the financial burden. This will effectively throw the life of contract and casual workers out of gear as the cost of living and inflation rates continue to rise. The reduction in the number of workers will also affect the services provided to the public.
Also watch: Modi Govt Is Destroying BSNL to Help Jio: BSNLEU Asst. Gen Sec
The contract workers are not covered under social security measures and the Labour Act. This effectively means that in the event of any mishaps they are not entitled to any type of benefits from the company or the government. They workers have continuously been demanding social security measures but have been denied so far.