- PROBLEMS, ACHIEVEMENTS (3)
TELECOM FACTORY COMMITTEE
For About one century it was the P & T Workshops, later called Telecom Factories, which manufactured and supplied many equipments, including Trunk Boards to P and T Department. Total seven Telecom Factories situated at Calcutta (Alipore), Gopalpur, Kharagpur, Jabalpur, Richai, Bhilai and Bombay. After initiation of neo-liberalisation policy in 1990s, government started purchasing from outside, starving these factories. There was a move to close Kharagpur Factory, on pressure from Tata, whose factory was nearby and who wanted space for expansion. BSNLEU met Communications Minister Shri Dayanidhi Maran on 13th July 2004 along with Com. Basudeb Acharya M.P. and requested that instead of closing, mobile towers be manufactured from there. It was agreed and manufacture of towers started.
The V Central Pay Commission in 1996 recommended that either all the telecom factories should be closed or they should be privatized. These telecom factories were all in important industrial areas and covering about 50 to 200 acres. Many industrial tycoons were eyeing these areas. Met Chairman of the Parliament Consulting Committee on Telecom, Com. Somanath Chatterjee, M.P. and appealed to ensure that these are not handed over or closed. This issue, when brought for discussion in the Consulting Committee, union presented a detailed report and requested for modernization instead of closure or privatization. DOT officers who gave evidence also supported. Committee recommended on the same lines and Telecom Factories continued to work.
Poor condition of Telecom Factories and the need to modernize and manufacture important items for telecom services were brought as an item in the JCM Meeting held on 30th July 2007 by Staff Side. It was also suggested that a Joint Committee of Staff Side and Official side visit theses factories and submit its report. Accordingly a committee consisting of Shri R.P.Nigam, DDG(TF) and V.A.N.Namboodiri, Secretary, Staff Side, was constituted and asked to visit all TFs and submit report.
All the TFs were inspected by the Committee during October – November 2007. First visit was to Jabalpur TF on 5th October. General Manager of TF along with staff and union leaders numbering more than hundred gave us a warm welcome at the TF gate. After a light breakfast, visited all units of the factory, one after another. The Civil Superintending Engineer was present. Microwave Towers, Galvanization shed, Dispensary, Tiffin room, Canteen, Library, manufacturing units, surroundings – all places visited.
Employees are working under very risky condition. Safety equipments are almost nil and risk is too much, especially in the galvanization unit etc. Scraps worth crores of rupees are dumped in the compound. Trees have grown even on the road inside the walls of the compound and the entire area seems like a forest. Risky to go up the watch towers. Toilets very dirty. Canteen also. Food for workers has to be improved. Manufacture of tower etc. below target.
Discussed with Union Circle Secretary and other workers. They told the surprising news that for many years, no senior officer had come to the TF and they are happy that a senior officer and Union General Secretary have come to visit the Factory.
In Kharagpur Factory, Towers are manufactured. After manufacturing, they have to be galvanized. There were towers galvanized by the TF as also galvanized by private companies. While the towers galvanized by TF were shining, the others were almost black since due process was lacking. Questioned why all towers should not be galvanized from TF itself and directed accordingly.
In another factory, we saw lengthy iron plates and rail pieces, which can be used, along with scrap materials. When asked about it, the officers could not answer. Useful materials were taken and put in the store.
Within two months the committee visited all the seven factories. Everywhere union leaders, officers and workers gave full co-operation and explained what is needed to modernize and improve the TFs. These visits were used to hold union meetings also with good participation of workers, even belonging to other unions, though their number was very less. Under the leadership of Com.Sisir Bhattacharjee, veteran leader of Factory Workers, they were well organized.
The Committee prepared a detailed report and submitted to the National Council and discussed. Even though only about ten percent of the recommendations were implemented, that itself was sufficient to infuse a new wave of energy and activity in the factories.
On many issues of the BSNL and its workers, final decision is to be taken by DOT, as BSNL is a fully owned government company as also that it was formed from a government department. Full autonomy was never given to BSNL Management and approval of DOT was required in many issues. This was creating a lot of difficulties in settling issues of the workers. This was brought to the notice of Shri A.Raja, Communications Minister, for intervention and settlement. According to his direction, a Committee was formed on 30th August 2007 to discuss such important issues for settlement. The Committee called DOT-BSNL.BSNLEU Committee consisted of DDG (SR), DDG(SU), DDG(Estt), and DDG(TF) of Department of Telecom, DDG(SR) of BSNL and General Secretary of BSNLEU, V.A.N.Namboodiri. Meetings were held every week for about two months and a lot of contentious issues settled or entrusted to BSNL for decision. A few of those issues are mentioned below:
- Delay in absorption of employees in BSNL from DOT, due to pending disciplinary proceedings. After discussion assured immediate action.
- Demand of BSNLEU for bonus of Rs.10,000. BSNL is authorized to take decision.
- BSNL is entrusted to take decision on the demand of ‘Prothhasan Batha’ to workers in naxal affected areas.
- Deposit in Central Government Employees Insurance Scheme will be returned the employees.
- Pension anomaly of those employees who rtired from October 2000 to June 2001 will be urgently examines.
Some other issues like the above were discussed and either settled or entrusted with BSNL for necessary action.
A Committee to discuss increase in the various perks including allowances, advances etc. were constituted and the following decisions were taken:
- Transport Allowance will be increased.
- Special Allowance of Rs. 100 will be paid to employees in unclassified cities.
- Festival Advance increased from Rs. 1500 to 5000.
- 250 granted as Food Allowance
- House Advance amount will be increased to 100 times of the salary.
- Retirement Grant will be increased from Rs. 1001 to Rs.2001.
- Personal Loan up to Rs. One lakh will be granted from Nationalized banks to purchase cars, two-wheelers, Computer etc.
It was not easy to settle the demands mentioned above. Hard bargaining and organizing agitations became necessary. Even to hold JCM meetings in time much pressure had to be put. (to be continued).