Sustained Struggles to save BSNL -22
Magnificent Strike – Magnificent Achievement.

Meeting with Secretary DOT

Shri P.J.Thomas, Secretary DOT held a meeting with the JCA leaders. While discussions were cordial, there was no clear decision or assurance.
Meeting with State Minister of Communications
The Minister of State, Communications, Shri Gurudas Kamath called for a meeting with the JAC leaders on 26th March 2010. The Minister heard the demands, but could not give any favourable decision. He only stated that appropriate action will be taken.
In preparation for the strike, the JAC issued press release and printed posters and circulated the same in large numbers. Detailed circular was issued calling upon the workers to fully and actively participate in the strike. State level conventions were organized in many centres. This resulted in massive propaganda amongst the workers and public.
A meeting with the Minister Communications, Shri A.Raja was held on 16-04-2010 on the strike demands including against the recommendations of the Sam Pitroda Committee. But there was no favourable decision.

Magnificent Strike – Magnificent Achievement

The strike on 20th April 2010 was magnificent on all counts. The strike which started at 0600 AM on 20th April saw hundreds of BSNL executives and Non-Executives gathering in front of BSNL Offices / Exchanges and demonstrating in support of their demands in the strike. By about 0900 hours almost all the workers had gathered in big cities like Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad Pune, Lucknow, Jaipur, Thiruvnanthapuram, Ahmedabad Patna, Bhuvneswar, Bhopal etc. and at circle and SSA headquarters and started demonstration. All offices, exchanges were deserted. So many offices stood closed, as there was nobody even to open them. The banners of Joint Action Committee and its constituent unions / associations were fluttering over the premises. The workers shouted slogans in support of the important demands. It was an exhibition of complete unity of all the executives and non-executives for a common cause. In many centres, leaders of Postal, Central government, State government, Insurance and other PSUs as also Pensioners Associations were present to convey their solidarity and support. The striking workers were addressed by Central trade Union leaders in many places.
Central trade Unions including INTUC, BMS, CITU, AITUC, HMS, TUCC, UTUC, AUTUC etc. had already adopted resolutions supporting the strike. CITU in its All India Conference at Chandigarh called upon all its units to extend full support to the strike. All India Insurance Employees Association called upon all its units to organize demonstrations in front of BSNL Offices in solidarity. AIBDPA and BSNLCCWF, Confederation and NFPE gave similar call. AISGEF extended its support. We received support from many PSU unions. We got so much support mainly due to the fact that the issues focused were issues of not only BSNL employees but they were general issues and against the anti-worker policies of the government. The complete unity of the JAC was another factor.

In the Rajya Sabha, Com.Tapan Sen, M.P. raised the issue in the presence of the Prime Minister. Com. Basudev Acharya M.P. raised the same in the Lok Sabha.
The management became panicky. The Minister of Communications Shri A.Raja immediately called for a meeting with the JAC along with Secretary DOT Shri P.J.Thomas, Member Services Shri S.C.Mishra, CMD BSNL Shri Kuldip Goyal, Director (HR) Shri Gopal Das and other senior officers.
The meeting started at 11.00 hours. Com. V.A.N.Namboodiri, Convener, JAC, conveyed to the Minister that we wanted concrete decisions on the issues raised and that we are not satisfied with vague assurances. All the issues raised in the strike notice were discussed which continued for more than two and half hours. Despite the fact that Parliament was in session, the Minister patiently heard our demands and viewpoints.

The main assurances from the minister were as follows:

1. A Cabinet Note will be prepared, referred to other concerned ministries and then sent for consideration of the Cabinet on ITS absorption issue. This will be done within 4 months. In the meanwhile BSNL will start the process of recruitment of DGMs and Management trainees. How many numbers will be recruited shall be decided by BSNL.
2. Considering the strong opposition of the unions, before taking final policy decision regarding disinvestment of BSNL, the unions will be consulted and taken in to confidence.
3. In the same way, in the case of VRS, Outsourcing as well as infrastructure sharing, the unions will be consulted before any final policy decision is taken.
4. The Unions impressed the urgency of at least minimum 36 million (3crores) mobile lines being procured for this year. CMD BSNL assured that 20 million lines are already available and 10 more millions lines will be obtained.
5. The JAC insisted that order for IDA Pension Revision for officials retired before 01.01.2007 should be issued without further delay. DOT and Management stated that this cannot be done without Cabinet approval since there are no rules at present in the matter. It was directed by the Minister that a Cabinet Note shall be finalized by the end of this month and after circulating to the concerned ministries, it should be submitted to cabinet within next three months for consideration.
6. When the delay for DOT approval for wage revision for BSNL non-executives was brought to his notice, the Minister directed DOT to resolve the issue expeditiously within 15 days.
7. The question of grant of 78.2% IDA instead of 68.8% IDA was brought to the notice of the Minister, who asked BSNL to discuss the issue with the unions.
After the draft minutes were received, the Joint Action Committee met and after discussion decided to call off the strike and the same was conveyed to the Minister and the final minutes of the meeting were issued. Accordingly, the magnificent strike which started in the morning was called off after 15.30 hours.
Impressive Achievement

The widespread strike has woken up the management, which was taking the strike in a casual way. Concrete decisions on time bound basis have been reached.
With regard to disinvestment, outsourcing, sharing of infrastructure as also VRS etc. the JAC has expressed its strong opposition and that the workers will never agree to any such proposals. Minister Shri A.Raja was fully sympathetic, but these are government policies. We have been able to stop them now. We have been assured that that the unions will be consulted before taking any final decision. The Telecom Commission which was to meet and take decision on BSNL IPO on 21st April 2010 postponed the meeting in view of the latest developments. The unions cannot be complacent and will have to be prepared for further struggles if the government proceeds with anti-worker decisions. This is the third time that JF / JAC is stopping disinvestment of BSNL during the last few years. Thus the strike has temporarily halted a major offensive of the government. (To be continued)