P & T Department never recruited justified and sanctioned staff. Always there will be shortage. Workers were put to much difficulty by heavy overload. In extreme circumstances, managed work by ordering staff on over time duty. Central government implemented ban on recruitment in 1980s, but P &T had implemented it even earlier. In 1970, it started system of Short Duty Operators. Due to strong agitation by NFPTE, they were regularised as regular staff.

Instead of recruiting more staff to cater to the need of expanding public services, government started new labour exploiting systems to meet shortage. In addition to the number of staff to be recruited, a ‘B’ list was prepared. They will be called to meet shortage in case of leave and other exigencies. They will be called to duty for two or three hours with an hourly wage of Rs. two. This was called ‘Reserve Trained Pool’ (RTP) system. First the intention of department was to have a Reserve Pool, without training, but the pressure of the union and requirement converted it to RTP, after providing training. There were recruited on the basis of recruitment rules and have been trained just like regular recruited employees. They were kept as reserve and being exploited.

About 3,000 such RTPs were recruited and trained in Kerala Circle alone in the cadres of Telephone Operator, Telegraphist, Postal Clerk, RMS Sorter, Clerks in Telegraphs and Telephones, Technician etc. The number was huge on all India basis.

As a responsible union, NFPTE took up the issue with the government and some improvement was made in the hourly rate. But most of the RTPs were given only two or three hours in a day.

Circle Unions in Kerala took up the issue in right earnest, both to increase working hours, the rates and regular appointment. Continuous agitations, protest demonstrations etc. were organised. As a result, training centres were started in Calicut and other cities. 8 hour duties every day was ensured to all. But the question of regularisation was still pending even after years.

When RTP system started I was the Circle Secretary of E.III Union in Calicut Telephone District. As stated earlier  was transferred to Lakshadweep but did not join there as per decision of union. Though no official duty since transferred, but used to go every day to exchange, offices etc. in the morning. And meet the workers. Almost every day went to the RTP training classes, met the trainees and spoke about them how the union is trying to improve their position. As a result most of the RTPs after training became members of the union.

There was an all India strike on 7th and 8th March in 1988 with demand of regularisation of RTP officials and central government was compelled to come to negotiating table. After serious bargaining, government agreed to regularise all the RTPs numbering about 70,000 or more. It was a big victory for the Union and workers. These recruitees, who learnt from their own experiences the exploitation of the government and  various struggles organised by  union on their behalf, became staunch and active workers of the union. (TO BE CONTINUED)