I had the opportunity to attend and inaugurate the March by the BSNL employees organised at Kozhikode on 9th March 2017, as per the call of the BSNL Unions and Associations. Hundreds of workers marched through the streets of the city and held the rally in front of the Income Tax Office. All the leaders of the various organisations addressed. Com. Jayarajan, Convener All Unions and Associations of BSNL and DS BSNLEU welcomed all.The workers participated enthusiastically. The March was organised to protest against the anti-PSU policy of the government and especially against the NITI Ayog recommendation for closure of BSNL, MTNL etc, against formation of Tower Company, demanding free 4 G spectrum to BSNL etc.
Dear Comrades, Colleagues and Brothers,
As a former Convener of the Joint Action Committee, Joint Forum and Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations, I wish to present the following appeal to all of you for a patient hearing and favourable consideration.
As all of us are fully aware, the formation of BSNL, corporatising the DOT services was the first step towards privatisation. Even before that, private telecom companies came in the scene. All the assistance, support etc. promised by the government was an eye wash to make the employees get absorbed in the new corporation, BSNL.
Within a few years, all of us experienced the move towards privatisation of BSNL by government through disinvestment and retrenchment. It was only through the united mighty struggles of the workers under the leadership of the JAC/Joint Forum/Forum that disinvestment and VRS/CRS could not be implemented in BSNL. It was a great achievement of the united struggle of the workers. It is to be noted here that almost all the PSUs stand disinvested and VRS/CRS implemented.
Privatisation not only means handing over this great government asset to the private for garnering huge profits, it also adversely affects the national security and results in loss of jobs to the employees.
The latest position of the government is to implement the recommendation of the NITI AYOG, to strategically sell BSNL and MTNL. When protests arose from the workers, NITI AYOG denied the report, but it is known to all that it is a ruse to confuse the workers from going on struggle. The present situation is very critical to the future of the PSU and the workers.
Through the initiative of the Forum and full co-operation from the Management, maximum efforts are made to improve the finance and better the services, which has borne fruit. This year, 2015-16, BSNL is in operational profit of about Rs. 3,000 crore. It is estimated that by 2017-18, BSNL will post profit.
It is, at this stage that the new danger of strategical sale is coming. At this crucial stage, we find the Forum, which has to take initiative, stands divided. BSNL Unions/Associations have always come together when there was any serious danger to the company and the workers.
This is the time for action. Any delay may result in untold hardship to the employees, sale of BSNL and retrenchment of tens of thousands of workers, as was done in the case of ITDC Hotels, VSNL etc. Once there is no BSNL and MTNL, the charge for telecom services will rise many fold, as the experience of other countries have shown.
Action requires unity of all the workers/unions/associations. The JAC/Joint Forum/Forum has been the united force of the workers to defeat the anti-worker policy of the government. There have been differences between the unions/associations on demands or priority on demands etc. but all have stood together like a rock when any serious attack came on BSNL or the workers. This is the force that kept BSNL alive.
Therefore, my appeal to all the Unions/Associations is that at this crucial juncture let us join together under the leadership of the Forum as before and fight the menace of strategic sale and privatisation. The government move can be defeated only if we all are united and ready for struggle.
I hope that all unions/associations will ponder on these issues and will come together as before and unitedly fight for the survival of BSNL and the workers.
With Warm Regards,
Former Convener of JAC, Joint Forum and Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations
New Delhi, 06-102016
In the website of the NFTE it is published on 27-05-2016 as follows: “ NFTE’s participation in JAC and Forum of BSNL unions and associations will remain suspended till holding of National Executive meeting of NFTE.”
We do not know what is the reason behind such a decision. However, we hope that the NFTE National Executive will take a positive decision to continue with Forum and JAC and participate in the struggles of the BSNL employees for the revival of BSNL and for the demands of the BSNL employees.
The Core committee of Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations met Shri Anupam Shrivastave, CMD BSNL and expressed strong opposition against the proposed VRS in BSNL. CMD stated that he is fully aware of the opposition of the unions. He also stated that the government has also not allotted any fund for the same. Coms. P.Abhimanyu, Convener, Forum and GS BSNLEU, K.Sebastian, GS SNEA, Prahlad rai, GS AIBSNLEA and other leaders participated.
As per CMD BSNL, Shri Anupam Shrivastava, BSNL has got a revenue of Rs. 30,000 crore in 2015-16 and an operational profit of around Rs. 2,000 crores. The following circles have posted profit: Andaman & Nicobar, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha. Andaman and Nicobar and Karnataka are the circles which joined the profit making circles this year. These glad news have been conveyed to the Core Committee of Forum by the CMD.
The joint effort of the management and the employees are making good results. Let the other circles also try to get profit by next year.
The press statement of Shri Anupam Shrivastava, CMD BSNL, that Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) is required in BSNL to reduce the loss has brought the issue of VRS/CRS once again as a matter of intense discussion among the workers. A few comrades have asked why we could not accept VRS/CRS. The government and management had decided to impose VRS/CRS thrice in the past, but had to backtrack before the strong opposition from the unions/associations. But since many new entrants are there who were not part of the earlier struggle, it will be relevant to point out why the workers and their unions are against the imposition of VRS/CRS.
The following points are very relevant in this matter.
- Corporatisation is the first step towards privatisation. Since a government department can not be directly made in to a private entity, the telecom services, a government department, was converted in to a corporation, despite strong opposition from the workers and their unions. ‘Business is not the business of the government’ is the policy of both NDA and UPA governments. Telecom Services is one of the biggest business with lakhs of crores of rupees investment and much more profit. Private companies are there in the field, but they want either BSNL and MTNL should be privatised or closed down so that they can reap much more profit. To justify privatisation or closure, BSNL has to be made loss making and inefficient, so that the public will not oppose much. VRS is a tool for the same.
- All decisions taken by the government and management since corporatisation were in this direction. It is thus, that BSNL which was having a profit of Rs. 40,000 crore annually and a profit of Rs. 10,000 – 12,000 crore was made in to a loss making concern reducing its revenue to Rs. 26,000- 27,000 crore and a loss of about Rs.8,000 crore. Towards this down fall, the government took over the balance of about Rs. 40,000 crore with the BSNL citing various reasons, stopped procurement of equipment required for development, did not recruit to compensate the retiring employees etc.
- Disinvestment of shares of the company is one method through which it can be privatised, as was done in the case of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, which was handed over to Tata. More than 46% of shares of MTNL are already sold and 5% more will mean that the government will lose control of the PSU. That is why, BSNL Unions under the leadership of Joint Action Committee/Joint Forum/Forum orgnaised mighty struggles and defeated the decisions of the government for disinvestment. BSNL is one of the few PSUs, whose share has not been sold at all.
- In the same way, VRS/CRS is another way for facilitating privatisation. After privatisation of VSNL, BALCO, ITDC Hotels etc., the new management started retrenching employees in large numbers starting with women workers and SC/ST etc. There was strong opposition against this from the workers. Hence the private lobby is putting pressure on the government that before privatisation itself, the number of workers should be reduced to the minimum so that, the take over will be easy. Instead of permanent workers, these private companies are employing contract workers, daily wagers and apprentices / trainees, thus maximising exploitation. This is another reason why the government wants VRS/CRS in the PSUs.
- There were about 3,50,000 employees at the time of formation of BSNL in 2000. Now it has been reduced to about 2,00,000, a reduction of 1.5 lakh workers. About 10,000 – 15,000 workers are retiring every year with only minimum recruitment. Who will do the work? The plan is to employ contract workers, apprentices etc.
- The claim of the management that almost 50% of the revenue is spent on salary bill is nothing short of confusing the public. For the last 4-5 years, there has been no increase in the total salary bill, which is around Rs. 14,000 crore. The % has increased only due to the reduction in the revenue from Rs. 40,000 crore to Rs. 26,000 -27,000 crore. If the revenue has increased to Rs. 50,000 – 60,000 crore, the % of salary bill be much reduced. Management and the government are fully responsible for the loss.
- Reduction of work force, without new recruitment will adversely affect the services. Wherever VRS has been implemented, as in the case of MTNL, this is the case. The Banks found out that after VRS, their services can not be run and immediately recruited almost double the number of employees who were sent out on VRS.
- Another argument is that the workers who opt for VRS will be benefitted by the compensation given. Of course a few lakhs of rupees extra will be received as per the scheme. But if you compare the pension of the employee who took VRS and the person who retires after superannuation, there will be a big difference with the latter getting much more pension since his salary will be higher. This loss in pension will continue through out the life of the person who takes VRS.
- Women workers are pressurised by their husband, children etc. to take VRS, since a good amount of money will be immediately available. But the fact is that a working women gets more respect in the society, they have a support from their co-workers at any time and they are also self-sufficient. Work for some more years and a better pension will be a great help in their old age.
- VRS in fact is CRS – Compulsory Retirement Scheme. The question of VRS always comes just before another wage revision. After wage revision, the salary will increase, arrears have to be given etc. This will increase the pension also. Hence both the government and the management wants that maximum number of employees are sent out on VRS/CRS so that they need not pay the increased wages and pension. They think that they can confuse, mislead and blackmail the workers to opt for VRS.
- According to the management for implementing VRS in BSNL, about Rs. 18,000 crore is required. From where it is going to come? If that amount is there, it can be utilised for procuring equipment, modernising and giving a better service to the people.
- Another aim of the Government and management is to see that the workforce is reduced to such an extent that the struggle of the workers can be weakened and privatisation can take place easily as in the case of VSNL. The government is irritated that it could not implement either VRS or disinvestment in BSNL due to the presence of mighty unions.
In such a situation, there is no compromise on VRS and it has to be strongly fought and defeated as earlier. The Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations have to immediately condemn the move for VRS and ensure that the nefarious game of the Govt.and management is utterly defeated.
The membership verification is over and BSNLEU and NFTE have been declared as the Main and Second recognised union respectively. The most important task at present is wage revision. However, another issue also is to taken with immediately. That is about the dues the central government have to pay to BSNL.
Since the verification campaign and other processes were going on for the last two months, proper focus could not be paid to the above issue. BSNL is in difficulty to procure equipment for expansion of services, while the private companies have got much funds either through loans, FDI etc. If the dues to BSNL from government is paid it will solve the problem to a certain extend and the company will post profit also.
The following are dues to BSNL from the government:
- About Rs. 6,000 crore towards refund of charges for spectrum surrendered by BSNL years back.
- Rs. 1,250 crores allotted by USO Fund for loss making connections, two years back.
- About Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 crores towards income tax refund.
Strong protest and agitation are required to get the dues of BSNL for its expansion and modification. The Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations of Non-Executives and Executives have to urgently focus on these.
As per the call of the Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations, lunch hour demonstrations were held in Circles and SSAs of BSNL. The employees wore black badges protesting against the delay in issuing orders for the 78.2% IDA pension fixation for the BSNL pensioners.
In BSNL Corporate Office, protest demonstration was held during lunch time. Slogans were raised demanding implementation of 78.2% fixation and protesting against the delay. Com. C.Singh, GS NFTE and President Forum, presided. Com. V.A.N.Namboodiri, Patron, BSNLEU addressed and explained the demand in detail,the injustice meted out to the pensioners and demanded immediate settlement. All India leaders of unions, Coms. Swapan Chakroborty(BSNLEU), K.Sebastian (SNEA), Prahlad Rai (AIBSNLEA), R.S.Chauhan (BSNLEU) and others were present.
Meeting of the Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations held on 9th December 2012 has decided to conduct a 100 days drive called “SERVICE WITH A SMILE” staring from 1st January 2016.
The objectives of the 100 days drive will be
(1) Vigorous marketing of mobile, landline and broadband connections.
(2) Ensure fault free services.
(3) Reconnection of broadband and landline connections.
(4) Special focus on MNP.
Let all BSNL employees put their shoulders to make the programme successful.
19 October, 2015:Massive Dharna demanding PLI (Bonus).
Massive dharnas were organized in Circes / SSAs demanding payment of Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) / Bonus to the BSNL employees and executives. The programme was organized as per the call of the Forum of BSNL Unions & Associations.
At the Corporate Office premises, New Delhi, the dharna was participated by more than 500 employees. In addition from NTR and Corporate Office, comrades came in large numbers from Haryana and UP (West). The dharna was inaugurated by Com. V.A.N. Namboodiri, Patron, BSNLEU and was addressed by General Secretaries and Circle Secretaries of Unions and Associations. Com. Balbir Singh, President, BSNLEU, Com. K.G. Jayaraj, General Secretary, AIBDPA, Com. Islam Ahmed, President, NFTE, Com. Prahlad Rai, General Secretary, AIBSNLEA, Com. Aravind Dahiya, Joint Secretary, SNEA(I), Com. Suresh Kumar, General Secretary, BSNLMS, Com. Gautam, Dy. General Secretary, SNATTA and other leaders addressed.