BSNL workers staged a protest in front of Bharat Sanchar Bhawan, the corporate office of the state owned Telecom in New Delhi on August 21, 2014. The protests came in the wake of anti worker recommendations made by a private consultancy hired by the BSNL management to “revive” the company.
Deloitte Consultants recommended retrenching of 70,000 workers through VRS, recruitment of officers on contract basis. It also recommended the downsizing of the operations of BSNL by reducing the number of Secondary Switching Areas (SSA’s) from 334 to 167, that is to half the present number.
The course pursued by the management of BSNL is dictated by the interests of the major private capitalists in the Telecom Sector, especially in the mobile telephony sector. AS one of the largest service providers in this Sector, and present all over the country, BSNL is able to set the rates for mobile charges at a relatively low level, forcing other companies to offer comparative rates. Already, the private companies in league with successive governments have ensured the deterioration of services of BSNL in the profit making sectors such as the metros and smaller cities, which have a high density of mobiles. Now they want to completely finish off BSNL in these areas. BSNL will be left with providing mobile connectivity to the remote villages and hills, wherein no private player ventures, as they are not profitable.
BSNL has become a loss making company precisely because of this course. At the same time, it has huge infrastructure, which private companies in the mobile telephony sector are eying. Already, as a result of the policies of the government, these companies are using the infrastructure of BSNL in the remote areas for free, without making any investments.
The BSNL workers are completely justified in opposing the liquidation of BSNL, and the attacks on their livelihood.
Meanwhile, on August 26, 2014, BSNL Casual and Contract Workers’ Federation held dharnas at BSNL District Offices across the country. They were demanding payment of minimum wages, and implementation of social security measures like Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ State Insurance (ESI), and regularization of jobs..
About one lakh casual and contract workers work in BSNL. Most of them have completed 15-20 years of service. The contract workers are neither paid minimum wages fixed by the government, nor included under schemes like EPF and ESI. They earn Rs 2,500-Rs 3,500 or even less in some cases per month.