Indefinite Strike from 26th February 2008

Government again planned to disinvest shares of BSNL in 2007. Joint Forum immediately protested, sent letter to Prime Minister, Communications Minister, DOT etc. Since no favourable reply received, issued notice for Indefinite Strike from 26th February 2008, on major demands including against disinvestment. Secretary DOT Shri Sidharth Bahure called a meeting and discussed the issues with JF leaders gave the following assurances:

  1. Proposed 10% disinvestment will not be implemented.
  2. If employees do not want, VRS will not be implemented.
  3. 60% – 40% issue of Pension will be taken up with government for settlement
  4. 2G, 3G Spectrum will be allotted without delay
  5. Cabinet Note will be prepared on BSNL financial viability
  6. Justification for Navaratna status submitted to higher committee.
  7. Cabinet Note is being prepared for absorption of ITS officers.

On the basis of the assurances, the strike was deferred. Since there was delay in implementation of the assurances, again met Secretary DOT. He told that Cabinet Note on ITS has come back and the clarifications sought are being submitted. Minister has approved the note on 60%-40% issue on pension and it will be submitted to Cabinet. In lieu of ADC, Rs. 2000 crore will be paid to BSNL.DPE has approved Navaratna status for BSNL and has submitted to Government. One portion of 2G Spectrum will be immediately allotted to BSNL.

Detailed discussion was held with CMD BSNL Shri Kuldeep Goyal on 27th May 2008 about expansion plans. He stated that orders are issued for 3.5 crore mobile lines and that another 9.3 crores lines tender is being prepared. Union gave valuable suggestions.

Since there was delay in merger of 50% IDA in pay, three days dharna was organized from 28th May 2008 at circle and divisional levels and at Corporate Office. During dharna, received invitation from Minister Shri A.Raja for discussion. Minister informed that CMD has been instructed to issue orders. By evening of the day orders were issued and dharna terminated.

On the issue of ITS absorption in BSNL, continuous struggle was organized including dharnas. JF demanded that if ITS are not absorbed, all others who are absorbed in BSNL should be taken back as government employees like ITS officers.

Indefinite Strike and Agreement, April 2008

It was at this time that  that the committee headed  by former Secretary DOT and telecom expert  Shri Sam Pitroda submitted its report to government recommending disinvestment of 30% shares of BSNL, retrench one lakh employees through VRS, copper cables of BSNL should be shared with private companies and works should be outsourced.

Against this anti-worker – anti-BSNL recommendations and demanding ITS absorption purchase of mobile lines, Pension Revision etc. Unions/associations gave notice for indefinite strike. The strike started on 20th April 2008, which was a great success with telecom services paralyzed. Press gave wide publicity with statements of the JF. AIBDPA and BSNLCCWF gave full support. Coms. Tapan Sen M.P. and Basudeb Acharya M.P. raised these issues in the Parliament.

Realising the serious situation Communications Minister Shri A.Raja contacted me over telephone and called for a meeting. Along with Minister, Secretary DOT Shri P.J.Thomas, CMD Shri Kuldip Goyal and other top officers were present. JF leaders presented the demands in detail. After discussion for about two and half hours, the following assurances were received in writing from the Minister:

Cabinet Note will be prepared and submitted to Cabinet Secretary within 4 months after obtaining reports from concerned Ministries, in between Management trainees will be recruited, selling of shares will be decided only after discussion with the unions as also VRS and outsourcing. 2 crores mobile lines will be purchased this year and one crore next year. Cabinet Note will be prepared and sent on pension revision for those retired before 01.01.2007. Approval of DOT will be given for wage negotiation within 15 days and CMD BSNL will discuss 78.2% IDA issue with the unions.

Joint Forum considered these written assurances and withdrew the strike on the same day by about 15.30 hours. Due to  complete participation of  workers in the strike, massive propaganda as also the helpful attitude of the Minister resulted in the favourable agreement. VRS decision could be stopped for the second time.

Tens of thousands of Post Cards were sent to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh demanding that Rs. 18,500 crore taken from BSNL in the name of 3G and BWC Spectrum should be refunded to BSNL. In continuation, on the urgent issue of purchasing of one crore mobile connection and refund of Rs.18,500, JF leaders went to Coimbatore and met Communications Minister A.Raja, who was there attending the World Tamil Conference, on 24th June 2010 and persuaded for early action.

National Convention of BSNL Workers on 19th July 2010

As per decision of the JF, a National Convention of BSNL workers was held on 19th July 2010 at Mavlankar Hall, New Delhi. Convener presented the demands and  action plan. M.K.Pandhe (CITU), B.Sanjeeva Reddy (INTUC), G.L.Dhar (AITUC), Prabir Purkayastha (Delhi Science Forum) and other leaders addressed giving valuable suggestions. The Declaration presented was approved and decided for a three days strike on the urgent demands. In continuation, similar conventions were held in all circles.

In preparation of the declared strike, a Parliament March was held with participation of about 4,000 workers on 15th November 2010. One day dharna was organised on 15th October protesting against denial of due Bonus.

Indefinite Strike from 1st December 2010

As per earlier decision, Indefinite Strike started from 1st December 2010 on the major demands of the BSNL workers, which was fully participated all over the country. Confederation of CG Employees and Workers, NFPE, AIIEA, AIBDPA, BSNLCCWF BEFI etc. gave support and solidarity.

On the second day of the strike Secretary DOT called for discussion and the same was held. Joint Forum expressed its strong protest against the non-implementation of the earlier assurances and criticised the inaction and going back from the assurances by the management and DOT. After hours of discussions on the following written agreement, strike was withdrawn:

There will be no disinvestment and IPO. Cables will not be unbundled (not shared). Cabinet Note on Pension Revision will be immediately submitted to Cabinet Secretary. Cabinet Note on ITS absorption had already sent to concerned ministries. Required mobile lines will be purchased immediately. BSNL will take decision on 78.2% IDA merger. Improvement of BSNL finance will be discussed with government.

During this period it was known that BRPSE had recommended for implementation of VRS in BSNL, reduction of retirement age from 60 to 58 and merger of Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) with BSNL. As per call of JF protest demonstrations were organised on 5th April 2011. Memorandum was given to Communications Minister Shri Kapil Sibal and Parliament Standing Committee on issues like policy to be adopted in grant of telecom licence and fixing of prices.

‘Customer Delight Month’, ‘Employees Awareness Week’.

The Unions proposed and discussed with the management about observance of ‘Customer Delight Month’ (later extended as Customer Delight Year), ‘Employees’ Awareness Week’ and other programmes and implemented the same resulting in much improvement of the services.

Joint Forum protested against the move of the central government to take over the buildings and sites of BSNL for CCA and other central establishments and sent letters to Prime Minister, Minister Communications, and Secretary DOT on the issue. The move by government was to take over the assets of BSNL.

Since ITS absorption issue was being delayed, as per decision of Forum, case was filed in Delhi High Court jointly by BSNLEU, SNEA and AIBSNLEA. Forum gave detailed suggestions to Communications Minister to be included in the National Telecom Policy -2011. (To be continued)