The employees of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)—the state-run telecom service provider that has been ailing in financial crisis for long—have not been paid their salaries for September. In February this year, for the first time in BSNL’s 18 years, salaries were delayed because the company had not been able to pay its over 1.68 lakh employees.
On the other hand, the Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Limited (MTNL) employees have been waiting for their salaries for past two months. The employees observed lunch hour strike on October 10 and 16 in Delhi and Mumbai where the company operates.
The contractual workers of BSNL, however, have not been paid their wages for the past 10 months. In certain circles, including Western Uttar Pradesh, the contractual workers have not been getting salaries for over a year. In between, some circles have retrenched a section of contractual workers following a decision by the BSNL management. The management, in June this year, had decided to let 30% of the contractual workers go to cut down on “avoidable expenditure”.
Read more: BSNL Crisis Continues: Over 1.68 Lakh Employees Yet to Receive Salary
The workers who had already been laid off are yet to receive their wages. “There is no clarity about the pending wages of retrenched workers,” said VAN Namboodiri, president of BSNL Casual and Contract Workers’ Federation.
Raising the issues like delayed salaries, All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) had given a hunger strike call on October 18. However, BSNL management held a meeting with the representatives of AUAB on Thursday morning. In the meeting, the management reportedly conveyed that the Cabinet is likely to take a decision about the revival package by 23rd of this month. The management has assured that the pending salaries would be paid by October 23 and requested the representatives to withdraw the hunger strike.
“In a meeting with the CMD, it has also been assured that the employees would be paid their salaries before 23rd of this month,” said Swapan Chakraborty of BSNL Employees Union (BSNLEU), one of the unions under AUAB.
But, the delay in salaries has caused unrest among the employees in this festive season. The delayed salaries have already affected the employees, especially those holding lower ranks. At the same time, from May this year, the deductions from the salaries of employees are not being remitted to Department of Telecommunication (DoT). Due to this, employees are not able to manage by availing General Provident Fund (GPF) withdrawals/loans.
“Similarly, the employees are not able to manage the situation by availing co-operative society loan also, since the deductions towards co-operative society dues is not being remitted to the concerned societies from May, 2019,” read a letter from P. Abhimanyu, general secretary of BSNLEU to CMD of BSNL.
“The employees are also facing extreme mental agony, since the banks are issuing notices to the employees, due to the non-remittance of bank loan EMIs to the banks by the BSNL management. Further, the banks are also levying penal interest to the employees for the belated remittance of the bank loan EMIs, by the BSNL management. Thus the employees are undergoing humiliation and are afflicted with social stigma, due to the default notices being issued by banks,” the letter read further.
Meanwhile, in today’s meeting, along with the demand for immediate payment of the September salary and timely payment of salary every month, the unions have raised issues including payment of contract/casual workers wages, payment of electricity bills and rentals etc. The AUAB also demanded revival of BSNL by immediate allocation of 4G spectrum, extension of financial assistance/soft loan and approval for BSNL’s land monetisation policy; settlement of 3rd Pay Revision, pension revision, and 30 percent superannuation benefits and payment towards Banks, LIC premium, societies, GPF, etc.
“If the management is not ready to meet the promises that they made today, we will decide on further course of action,” Chakraborty added.
Read more: BSNL Asks All Circles to Retrench 30% Contractual Workers