PROBLEMS, ACHIEVEMENTS (1)
As pointed out earlier, in all membership verifications from the Second Verification in 2004, BSNLEU won with good majority despite some of the allies, including FNTO left the alliance. There existed a lot of important problems without settlement for years along with the special problems arisen due to corporatization. Small issues could be discussed with officers and settled. But major issues are usually taken in the National Council of the Joint Consultative Machinery (JCM). There will be 14 representatives from the recognized union and almost that number of officers. Chairman was the Director (Human Resources Development), who is a Member of BSNL Board. The meeting is to be held every three months, but during the previous more than two years only six meetings were held.
As Cabinet Secretary is presiding in the National Council of JCM of Central Government Employees, CMD of BSNL should have been the Chairman of BSNL JCM. This was raised in the first meeting itself by the newly constituted Staff Side. But management was not prepared to change the existing system which started two years back and was agreed to by the then staff side. This system created a lot of difficulties, since no concrete decision could be taken on many of the issues as the Chief Executive was not present. Management utilized this situation to delay decisions in JCM.
VRS decision scrapped
The first meeting after the second verification (7th meeting including the earlier meetings), was held on 25th January 2005. After introduction, welcome etc., I raised the issue that the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) approved by the last JCM meeting should be scrapped forthwith, since it is completely against interests of BSNL as well as workers. Management contended that it was agreed to by the earlier recognized union (NFTE). We told that BSNLEU is now the recognized union and we will oppose this anti-worker decision tooth and nail. Management was compelled to accept our demand and drop the VRS. A decision of the earlier JCM meeting.
Supply of HMT Watch to staff
Considering the growth of BSNL and increased profit due to introduction of mobile service and hard work of employees, staff side demanded that HMT Wrist Watches be supplied free to all the employees. Though opposed first, management agreed afterwards. A Committee of Management and Staff Side, represented by me, was constituted for the purpose. Management was interested in negotiation with private watch companies, but I strongly opposed and firmly asserted that it should be from HMT, another PPSU. HMT was in financial difficulty and it would be a help to it. The committee had hard bargaining with Directors of HMT and agreement was signed in August 2006. Accordingly golden plated good quality watches with BSNL logo was supplied to all. Management side wanted separate watches for Board Members, executives, non-executives etc. We strongly opposed the proposal and told that no discrimination on status or pay scales. Only two types of watches, one for men and other for women – nothing more than that. That was also agreed. Three lakh watches were supplied and HMT was benefitted. HMT Unions thanked BSNLEU for the deal.
Management might have learnt that when all employees got the gift, Secretary Staff Side, who raised the demand, could not get it since he was a retired employee. When went to meet Shri S.D.Saxena, Director (Finance) one day, he took two HMT watches, one gents and one ladies, from his table and offered the same to me as gift. I thanked him for his generous offer, but stated that I cannot accept the same as I am not eligible as per the orders, being a retired person.
In the next All India Conference of BSNLEU, Com.C.K.Gundanna, Circle Secretary, Karnataka, presented me a same model of HMT watch purchased from HMT with receipt of the same. BSNL Director was present. When attending FNTO All India Conference, Shri K.Vallinayagam, GS FNTO, also presented me with a watch. Management representative was there also.
Management might have felt embarrassed. In the next meeting of the JCM National Council, Management presented HMT watch to all Staff Side members, including me. Thus they solved the problem.
Five Promotions in Service
Another demand raised was that all employees should get at least five promotions in service, after every six years. Some cadres were getting two promotions, some were getting one and many were not getting even a single promotion. Though demand of two promotions while in service was agreed to during DOT days after a lot of struggle since 1978 to 1991 and also agreeing for reduction of staff etc. by the then the recognized unions NFTE and FNTO, there were still many cadres who were deprived of the same like staff of Telecom Factory, Stores etc. The first promotion was after 16 years and second after 26. Though 10% of those who got second promotion had eligibility to get a third promotion, most did not get it due various reasons.
Management was completely opposed to the suggestion of further promotions. In the JCM Committee constituted on this demand, management representatives put all kind of obstacles. It was only after years of hard bargaining and more than one strike that four promotions were agreed. Even in the last moment obstacle was created. Secretary of the Committee, GM(SR) Shri Shakeel Ahamed, who was very much against BSNLEU and close to OPG, created various obstacles in the committee, not to come to any agreement. Hence decision delayed for years. At last date was fixed for signing the agreement on 30th October 2008. All other members were present and signed, but he was absent and did not reach even after hours. The tactics was not to get agreement signed before ensuing membership verification, to deny its benefit to BSNLEU.
I discussed with other members of Staff Side and went and sat in the room of Director (HR) Shri Gopal Das, stating that I will continue to sit there till agreement is got signed by GM(SR). Things moved fast. Shakeel Ahamed had already left for his home in U.P. The signed copy of agreement was sent by fax to him with directions to sign it and return by fax. Within two hours the signed copy was got back. Many employees later asked why there are fax markings in the agreement.
Even after agreement, hurdles were created and issue of orders delayed. BSNLEU was compelled to meet Communications Minister Shri A.Raja. The same day, 23rd March 2010, orders were issued.
According to agreement and orders, all officials will get promotions after every eight years. Some concessions were there for first promotion for those recruited in DOT. Though agreement was signed only on 30th October 2008, promotions were to be implemented with retrospective effect from October 2004. Eligible to officials retired up to 01-04-2008. No sanctioned posts required for these promotions. No test or examination. SC/ST officials will get relaxation in service. One increment along with promotion. All those cadres which did not have any single promotion in service, also will get all four promotions. In the prevailing circumstances, it was a great achievement. There was a fifth promotion, but it took further years to settle the same.
LIC Group Insurance Scheme
BSNLEU demanded that Group Insurance Scheme should be implemented for employees. Negotiation started with LIC in which BSNLEU was a party. In getting the premium reduced including risk factor as also concluding the agreement with LIC, assistance was received from Com. Venugopal, then General Secretary of AIIEA. This was the biggest Group Insurance Scheme in the world with more than 3 lakh employees involved.
As per demand of BSNLEU, Works Committees, with representatives from Management and Recognised Union were constituted at All India, Circle and Divisional levels to discuss about improvement of services, modernization and other such matters. Orders were issued on 9th October 2007, after much persuasion. It helped improvement of the services.
Guidelines for Transfers
Transfer was always a tool for management to harass workers as also to favour some others. BSNLEU discussed the matter with Management and got issued clear guidelines, so that transfers will be ordered without favour or malice. Though violated now and then by some officers, generally these instructions were implemented. (to be continued).