Today, the All-Union & Association of BSNL (AUAB) met with the telecom minister, Manoj Sinha to talk on many points and address the problems that BSNL was facing. In the talk, the minister and union members spoke about the strike which was later deferred from the union’s side. Another point of discussion was the cost of the 4G spectrum which is scheduled to be allotted to the government led telecom operator.
Major Win for AUAB and BSNL Employees
P. Abhimanyu, general secretary, BSNL Employees Union and spokesperson of AUAB remarked, "Four of our demands were settled. The most important being an in-principle approval of allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL by the minister.” He further added to his statements, “It was decided that for allotment of this 4G spectrum, 50% of the cost would be borne by BSNL and the rest would be capital infusion from the government. The minister had assured us yesterday that he would take up the matter with the inter-ministerial group, which had earlier raised objections about allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL.”
This comes as a significant step for the loss-making state-led telco as BSNL has long talked about an equity infusion for raising capital. This capital would then come in to use for the government led telco to buy 4G airwaves and to increase its network infrastructure in the country. Earlier, during talks with the finance ministry the centre had remarked that since BSNL was a loss-making company, an equity infusion deal would unlikely come to fruition. However, after the discussion with Manoj Sinha on Monday, the union and the minister concluded that the issue would be raised to the cabinet for further approval.
Notably, AUAB which consists of nine unions with BSNL workers and officers at their cores had called for a nation-wide strike, but after the talk with the telecom minister, the two lakh employees of BSNL deferred the event. It is worth noting that AUAB is a common platform for these unions, and was formed two years back when talks of BSNL’s financial revival became mainstream inside the company.
Previously, the union had approached telecom minister, Manoj Sinha saying that non-allotment of the 4G spectrum to BSNL would mean a big blow to the government led telco since it would mean having old network technology as compared to the competition. They further urged that this would mean being redundant in an already competitive market.
Some more issues which were taken up during the discussion with Manoj Sinha included delinking revision of pensioners along with the wage revision of current BSNL employees. The point of pension reduction paid by the BSNL to the government as contribution was also taken up. Further, the union urged that the government has been netting good money from BSNL and was further exerting financial pressure on the operator.
Issues of Pension and Compensation Revision Stalled
While the four issues described above reached some conclusion, the other issues including that of pension distribution for employees directly recruited by BSNL and not by the DoT (Department of Telecommunications) were stalled for some later time.
As per the sources referring to telecom ministry, telecom secretary, Aruna Sundararajan had remarked that employees recruited directly from BSNL might be greeted with a salary revision which would comprise a lesser fitment than what is compensated to the officials hired by the DoT.
Earlier, the telecom ministry hadn’t budged on the issue of revising pay for the employees directly recruited by the telco, saying that the operator was running under heavy losses. Abhimanyu spoke on behalf of the union, as he said, "This is a big victory for us. Especially that our demand for 4G services was accepted. One issue is yet not settled, but we want to give the government more time. On the basis of this, it has been decided to defer the strike until further intimidation.”