BSNL Casual-Contract Workers on Struggle Path
More than one lakh casual and contract workers engaged in BSNL, the telecom PSU, are on the struggle path to achieve their long pending demands and to end the injustice being meted out to them. BSNL Casual and Contract Workers Federation, in its Central Executive Committee meeting held on 16th June at New Delhi has decided to organise Protest Demonstrations on 7th July and to organise a Bharat Sanchar Bhawan March on 26th August 2011 to the BSNL Corporate Office, New Delhi.
The system of casual labour was started in the Department of Telecom decades back for laying cables and lines, removing faults in telephone lines etc. They were eligible for being regularised in the DOT after working for 240 days in a year without any break. By 1988, DOT issued orders to stop the practice of engaging casual labour, but since there was lots of work to be done, the engagement continued. In 1998 a similar instruction was issued, but the engagement again continued.
At the time of formation of BSNL, converting DOT services in to a corporation, an agreement was made by the DOT with the then recognised Federations that all the left out casual labours and Temporary Status Mazdoors (those casual labours who are eligible for regularisation, but due to lack of vacancies could not be regularised and given the Temporary Status) will be regularised with effect from 01-10-2000, the date of formation of the PSU. About 2000 casual workers as also TSMs were regularised accordingly. The process was going on with the other left out casual labour/TSM.
But after 2006, the regularisation was completely stopped by the BSNL management on the plea that the Supreme Court in State of Karnataka & others Vs. Umadevi & others has given a judgement against regularisation of casual labour/TSM. However the Departments of Income Tax, Customs, and Defence etc. regularised their casual labours citing the same judgement in which there was a clause that a new scheme can be introduced for regularisation. In other Central PSUs also casual/contract labour was regularised. Even after citing these examples BSNL management refused to regularise these labours who have been engaged for 10 to 20 years continuously. According to a reply from the Communications Minister in the Parliament, there are 3361 such casual labours out of which 2270 are in W.Bengal alone.
Some of the above TSMs in Odisha circle approached the High Court for justice and the High Court issued favourable orders on the basis of which BSNL was compelled to regularise them. At the same time, BSNL is not prepared to grant regularisation to similarly placed mazdoors.
The daily wages of the casual labour are to be fixed as 1/30th of the monthly salary of a regular employee working in the same kind of job. But now they are given only 1/30th of the central Government rates which is less compared to the PSU wages.
The wages of the contract labour are fixed according to the minimum wages notified by the Government of India. As per the latest notification, the minimum wages for unskilled/semiskilled/skilled/highly skilled in A, B, C class cities are as follows:
Labour A class B Class C Class
Unskilled 247.00 205.00 165.00
Semiskilled 273.00 232.00 192.00
Skilled/clerical 301.00 273.00 232.00
Highly skilled 327.00 301.00 273.00
But in BSNL the labours are being paid a pittance of Rs. 2000/- to Rs.2500/- monthly which is only about half of the wages that is to be paid. After sustained struggles, the BSNL management has issued orders on minimum wages, but except in W.Bengal and T.Nadu , no circle authorities are paying the same to their contract labours. Worst exploitation by the Contractors and certain corrupt officers are continuing resulting in denial of due wages to the labourers.
As per Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970 and other labour acts, social security measures like EPF, ESI are to be implemented for the Casual and Contract labour. But these are also not implemented to the BSNL casual contract workers.
Despite several discussions with the management, when the issues could not be settled, the BSNL Casual and Contract Workers Federation submitted a petition to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour through Com. P.R.Natarajan, CPI(M) MP. The Standing Committee held a meeting in which the BSNL Management assured that all rules and regulations will be implemented with regard to the casual and contract workers. In fact, they stated that all these orders were implemented.
But what happened afterwards is shocking. Instead of implementing the social security measures and paying minimum wages, most of the casual and contract workers are being retrenched stating that minimum wage cannot be paid and that there is no work. Both the arguments have no basis. These workers were engaged for the past 10 to 20 years and the argument that there is no work is only to deny them minimum wage and social security measures. The arrears from February 2011 are not yet paid.
The workers are on struggle in many places all over the country. BSNL Casual and Contract Workers Federation have called for a Protest Demonstration on 7th July and Bharat Sanchar Bhawan March on 11th August. A charter of demands has been submitted to the management with the following demands:
1. Regularisation of all casual labour /TSM
2. Payment of wages to casual labour on IDA
3. Payment of Minimum wages to Contract Labour.
4. Implementation of EPF, ESI etc.
BSNL Employees Union, the recognised union in BSNL, has extended full support and solidarity to the struggle of the casual and contract workers. In case the long pending issues are not settled, further sustained agitation including strike will have to be resorted to.
BSNL Casual and Contract Workers Federation