Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has directed its chief general managers (CGM) across its territorial and non-territorial circles to “draw a clear road map for non engagement of contract labours immediately.” According to a letter dated September 1, 2020, BSNL CGMs were also told that there was “no justification for housekeeping labourers and other contractual stuff such as security.” The operator earlier in May 2020 and September 2019 had asked its CGMs to “take immediate steps” to limit the expenditure on contract works and cut down the engagement of labours through contractors. However, the development has resulted in the BSNL Employees Union (BSNLEU) voicing its concerns to PK Purwar, CMD of BSNL.
BSNL Outsourcing Works Led to Spike in Connectivity Faults
The BSNLEU in a letter to Purwar on Thursday highlighted that several contract workers have already been retrenched in a “big way through the outsourcing of works.”
“Already reports are being received from many circles that faults have increased and disconnection of landlines and broadband connections have also increased after the implementation of the outsourcing of works,” the BSNLEU said in a letter.
The main recognised union of BSNL also said that the “necessity to continue” with contract workers “became more compulsory” post the implementation of BSNL Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS). It has to be noted that the VRS scheme was part of the government’s measure to restructure BSNL with around 79,000 BSNL employees said to have taken voluntary retirement in early 2020. BSNL was then said to have had 1,53,000 employees in early 2020 when the VRS scheme was initially announced.
“However, you have decided to retrench thousands of contract workers which have only helped to worsen the maintenance of our networks at the field level,” the BSNLEU said. “As a result of this, the quality of our services has undoubtedly deteriorated.”
The BSNLEU also stated that the financial position of the operator has “worsened” post the implementation of the VRS scheme. It has been said that BSNL has been unable to pay salary to its existing employees on the due date.
TelecomTalk on Wednesday reported that BSNL is set to outsource its network maintenance and customer services to keep up with the current “market trends and business requirements.”
“The BSNL Management may justify it’s outsourcing of works by drawing comparison to the private telecom companies, which get most of their works done through outsourcing,” the BSNLEU said. “But we wish to remind that BSNL is not a private company, but a state-owned Public Sector Company, having the responsibility of discharging its duties to the nation and its people.”
The BSNLEU highlighted that the contract workers are not paid “exorbitant wages” and that their wages were in accordance with the rates set by the Ministry of Labour.
“As such, there is absolutely no justification for the Management to say that the funds of the Company are going into the drain by way of engaging the contract workers,” the BSNLEU said.
BSNL Revival Becoming a Distant Dream
Crucially, the BSNLEU also said that the “revival of BSNL is becoming a distant dream” as the government’s decision to allot 4G spectrum remains only on paper.
The BSNLEU said that BSNL was unable to rollout its 4G service even 10 months after the revival package announcement and that it’s “the reason why BSNL is not able to increase its revenue.”
The main recognised union of BSNL said that the operator with its 2G and 3G technologies was able to increase its user base in May while Airtel and Vodafone Idea had lost users,
“This only shows that, only the dedicated service being rendered by the work force of BSNL, which undoubtedly includes the contract workers that BSNL has been able to achieve this,” the BSNLEU said. “When this being the fact, your decision to completely root-out the contract workers will only land BSNL in a more disastrous situation.”
Further, the BSNLEU said that the contract workers are a “real contributors to the growth and the development of the company.”
“Even if the Management considers that a section of the contract workers are redundant, they can be gainfully utilized in the marketing activities, to increase the revenue collection of the Company,” the BSNLEU said.