Vol. XLI No. 51 December 17, 2017

BSNL Employees on Two-Day Strike Seeking Pay Parity

OFFICERS and employees of the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) observed a two-day strike on December 12-13, seeking pay revision and protesting against the formation of a subsidiary tower company.

As per the recommendations of the Third Pay Revision Committee that have been approved by the Union Cabinet, the employees of BSNL are not eligible for pay revision, with effect from January 1, 2017. According to the committee, the employees of a public sector undertaking (PSU) are not eligible for pay revision, if the company had not earned profit during the preceding three years.

BSNL has been incurring losses since 2009-10, due to the anti-BSNL and pro-private sector policies of the government. The employees are in no way responsible for it. It is worthwhile to mention that, the same BSNL earned Rs 10,000 crore net profit in 2004-05. However, during the period from 2006 to 2012, the government scuttled BSNL’s efforts to procure equipment for its mobile network expansion, with the view to favour private telecom companies. This is the basic reason why BSNL became a loss-making company. This has been confirmed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, through public statements, when he was the minister for communications.

The employees of BSNL have taken many initiatives to pull the company out of loss. Movements such as ‘Customer Delight Year’, ‘Service With A Smile’, etc., were launched by the employees unions and associations, to actively involve the employees for improving BSNL’s quality of services. Further, as per the call of the unions and associations, the employees are also massively getting themselves involved in marketing activities, apart from doing their normal duties, to increase the customer base and the revenue of the company.

As a result of the combined efforts taken by the employees and the BSNL management, the total revenue of the company has risen from Rs 27,996 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 28,645 crore in 2014-15. It further increased to Rs 32,919 crore in 2015-16. BSNL ran into an operational loss Rs 691 in 2013-14. However, in 2014-15, it earned an operational profit of Rs 672 crore. In 2015-16, the operational profit has increased to Rs 3,854 crore. In 2016-17 also, BSNL is in operational profit.

Under these circumstances, denying pay revision to BSNL employees, on the plea that the company is not making profit, is most unfair. It will demotivate the employees, which in turn, will affect the process of BSNL’s financial revival. Taking this into account, the Board of Directors of BSNL, has recommended to the government that the company should be allowed to give pay revision to its employees. The Board has also told the government that it did not require any financial assistance from the Government, for implementing this pay revision. The entire additional expenditure will be met by BSNL through internal resources. The unions and associations demand that the government accept the BSNL Board recommendations for pay revision with 15 per cent fitment and it should be implemented for BSNL employees. Further, they also demand that the recommendation of the 2nd Pay Revision Committee in respect of 30 per cent superannuation benefits to the 'Directly Recruited Employees' also be implemented.

The unions and associations strongly oppose the decision of the Union Cabinet to form a separate subsidiary tower company out of BSNL. Through this decision, the government intends to snatch BSNL’s seventy thousand mobile towers, and hand them over to the subsidiary tower company. The whole intention of the government is to subsequently privatise this subsidiary tower company, through strategic sale. The formation of a subsidiary tower company will blow a death knell to BSNL. Hence, the government should drop its decision.

On these demands, the entire Executives and Non-Executives of BSNL, under the banner of the All Unions and Associations of BSNL, observed a two-day strike. Further, it has also been decided that an indefinite strike would be launched, if the demands are not accepted by the government.