A detailed discussion took place between CMD BSNL Shri Anupam Shrivasatav and  Forum representatives. All Board members were present. Since most of the issues were to be decided by DOT, no settlement could be reached. The only main assurance was that sufficient mobile lines will be purchased. It was also agreed that appointments will be made in essential posts. Other issues were to be discussed with DOT.

2 Days Strike on 21-22 April 2015

Forum reviewed the discussion with CMD and came to the conclusion that the strike has become unavoidable as the major demands are not settled.

The two days strike on 21-22 April 2015 paralyzed the entire BSNL services. As per call of  BSNLCCWF, casual-contract workers also joined the strike. Pensioners under the leadership of AIBDPA organized massive demonstrations in support and solidarity.  CITU, AITUC, BMS, INTUC, AIRF, AIIEA, NFPE, Confederation, BEFI, AISGEF and other organisations expressed solidarity and greeted the striking workers.

Members of Parliament, P.Karunakaran, Shankar Prasad Dutt, Jithendra Choudhury, P.K.Biju, Dr. A.Sampath, P.K.Sreemathi and others raised the strike issues in  Parliament in zero hour on 22nd April and demanded the government to settle the issues.

Discussion with DOT and important achievements

Though no talks were held at the time of strike, a few days later, Secretary DOT Shri Rakesh Garg called for a meeting with Forum leaders on 1st May 2015 in which all constituents of Forum participated. All Members of the Telecom Commission including Secretary USO Fund and BSNL Board members participated. As Convener of Forum, I presented the demands in detail with facts and figures, which were supplemented by Com.C.Singh, Chairman of Forum and by other leaders effectively. Decisions of the discussions are given below:

Assistance from USO Fund and ADC will continue. Rs.1250 from USO Fund will be immediately paid to BSNL. Efforts are being made to get the refund of Rs. 7000 crore paid in excess to Income tax authorities. Action for refund of the charges paid to BWA Spectrum is being processed. The issue of collection of pension contribution on the basis of the actual pay is being taken up with the government. The same with the refund of the salary paid by BSNL to the TERM CELL employees. BSNL will be allowed to take loan from Banks. Pension Revision w.e.f. 01-01-2007 is taken with the government. Cabinet note is being prepared for  78.2% IDA revision. Settling 60%-40% issue is under active consideration. No decision has been taken on BSNL-MTNL merger. Any decision on this will be taken only after consultation with unions. Vacant posts of BSNL Directors will be filled up early. The transfer of all BSNL assets to the PSU is being discussed between DOP and DOT. The demand that it should be made mandatory for all central departments to avail the services of BSNL is not feasible. The 30% retirement benefit to BSNL recruitees can be decided by BSNL.

As can be seen from the above, assurances were given on most of the major demands included in the two days strike. It was a big achievement of the workers.

Discussions were also held with the Chief Labour Commisioner on  strike issues. CLC demanded the management to implement the government orders on the various issues like Wages, EPF, ESI etc. to the contract labours engaged in BSNL.

Requested in the next meeting held on 12th June 2015 that I may be relieved from the post of Convener of the Forum of BSNL Unions and Associations, since have already vacated the post of President of BSNLEU in the Kolkata AIC held earlier. My resignation was reluctantly accepted only after it was intimated that BSNLEU has also taken a similar decision. Com.P.Abhimanyu, GS, BSNLEU, was elected as the new Convener.

Since 2004, I have been working as the Convener of the Joint Forum, Joint Action Committee, Forum etc. and the experiences were inspiring and encouraging.  It was not an easy task to co-ordinate all the unions and associations, which had different ideology, different priorities etc. It was only with the co-ordination and mutual respect of the leaders of the unions/associations that the Forum could move forward successfully. It is commendable that executives, who did not participate in earlier strikes, participated along with other constituents of the Forum. The aim of the Forum was to ensure a better service to the customers as also to ensure the rights of the workers. The decisions were taken in the Forum unanimously only and if there was any difference, it will be postponed and further discussed. The little differences that arose after membership verifications were discussed and settled without delay.

It was because of this strong unity within the Forum that BSNL Management was unable to implement many anti-worker decisions they have taken. Though government decided that 10% -25% shares of PSUs should be disinvested, it could not be implemented in BSNL due to staunch opposition of the unions. Even offer of 3% shares to workers was out rightly rejected. Management decided to implement VRS thrice, but they could not succeed. DOT was compelled to allot 3G Spectrum, though a bit late. Thousands of JTOs, JEs could be got recruited despite ban on recruitments. Anti-worker 60%-40% condition for payment of government pension could be removed ensuring full pension by government. The same Minister Communications who cancelled the mobile tender was compelled to float similar tender. Though government decided to stop assistance from ADC and USO Fund to BSNL, they had to agree to continue the same. The Pension Revision, though was not in the wage agreement, could be got implemented from 01-01-2007. Many programmes for Revival proposed by Forum could be implemented.

The position taken that discussions can only be with the BSNL Management had to be changed and many fruitful discussions were held with DOT as also Communications Minister and even with the Prime Minister.

I take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the unions / associations and their leaders who fully co-operated and stood in the forefront in functioning of the Forum and implementing the various programmes including  several successful strikes. They include Comrades O.P.Gupta, M.B.Vichare, N.T.Sajwani, C.Singh (NFTE), G.L.Jogi, K.Sebastin, A.A.Khan (SNEA), Prahlad Rai, K.Sathyanarayana, P.Venugopal (AIBSNLEA), K.Vallinayagam,  Thomas John, K.Jaya Prakash (FNTO), R.Venkatraman, V.Subburaman, S.P.Sreevasthava, Rasheed Khan (TEPU), Suresh Kumar, Mallikarjun, V.Narayana (BSNLMS), V.K.Tomar (MTNLEA), K.M.Pillai (MTNLSW), S.Basu (BSNLEA), S.D.Sharma, Raj Kishore (BSNLWRU), Vrijesh Upadhyaya, Inder Dev Singh (MTNLMS), Umesh Thyagi (MTNLKVS), Satheesh Kumar (MTNLW) Devender Singh (MTNLOA), T.Muthukrishnan, B.R.Jakatiya, N.D.Ram, R.Ravindran (SEWA BSNL), A.K.Koushik (TEAM), S.V.S.Subramanhyam, V.R.Venugopal (BTEUBSNL), Dhiraj Choudhary, Hukam Singh, Sunil Gautam (SNATTA), Sathyabir Singh (MTNLMKU), Hari Singh(BTUBSNL), R.S.Yadav, K.Anil Kumar( BSNL ATM),              Patil, Devi Prasad(AIBCTES), R.K.Kohli(NFTBE), Jile Singh(NTSU), R.P.Sahu(AIGETOA), M.K.Bagchi(MTNL), P.Andiyappan (FNTOBEA), Rana Pratap(BEABSNL), Rakesh Sathi(AIBSNLOA)  and many others,  whom I might have forgotten to mention.

But the centre point was always BSNL Employees Union. They include Com.P.Abhimanyu, first as Deputy General Secretary and later as General Secretary, Com.J.N.Mishra, President, Balbir Singh President, Deputy General Secretaries Comrades P.Asokababu, Animesh Mitra, Swapan Chakraborty  and other office bearers. They were always in the front in leading and implementing the decisions. Com.R.S.Chauhan, Circle Secretary of Delhi NTR Circle and All India Organising Secretary was the captain along with Com.H.L.Makkar and other comrades who organized all the various programmes in Delhi effectively and with success. I salute all the comrades who made the functioning of the Forum a big success(contd.)