The employees of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) are going on strike as their salaries have been delayed. In fact, MTNL announced it would go on a lunch-hour stir today (10 October) and 16 October in Mumbai and Delhi as their salaries have not been paid for two months.
The lunch-hour demonstrations for today will be held at Sanchar Bhawan Gate in New Delhi and the ED Mumbai telecom office. The 16 October demonstration will be held at the CGO Complex in New Delhi and the ED Mumbai telecom office.
Employees have been protesting outside the office of MTNL as their salaries haven't been paid for two months"August and September. "If our issues are not resolved soon, we will not sit idle. We will even take our protests to the Prime Minister's office," said Dharamraj Singh, convenor of forum of MTNL unions and association to the The Times of India.
Meanwhile, BSNL employees also plan to join the strike by MTNL, said BSNL union leader K Sebastian, the news report said. Sebastian said they were trying to "understand the government's plans regarding revival of our companies".
All India Unions and Associations of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (AUAB) Convenor P Abhimanyu told PTI earlier, "Government owes BSNL huge amount of money. They have also collected excess amount of around Rs 400 crore per year from BSNL since 2007 in the name of pension contribution. This time we will start agitation across the country against the government. If the Department of Telecom clears dues of BSNL - both vendor payments and salary can be given on time," he said.
The two PSUs had delayed payment of salaries for February until mid-March due to a financial crisis. BSNL had then said that it used its internal accruals to clear the pending wages.
BSNL's salaries for July too were delayed by nearly a week, spilling into the beginning of August. On 5 August, BSNL confirmed it has released wages of employees for the month of July, after dipping into its internal accruals.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) for some time now has been preparing a rescue plan for the two companies in the form of a revival package that entails components like voluntary retirement scheme, asset monetisation and allocation of 4G spectrum.
The DoT is also said to be considering a proposal for the merger of the two PSUs as part of efforts to revive the ailing state-owned telecom firms.
BSNL's loss is estimated to be around Rs 14,000 crore with a decline in revenue to Rs 19,308 crore during 2018-19.
The public sector firm's provisional loss was Rs 4,859 crore in 2015-16, Rs 4,793 crore in 2016-17, Rs 7,993 crore in 2017-18 and is estimated to swell to Rs 14,202 crore in 2018-19, according to information presented in Parliament.
'Retirement age should not be changed'
Besides the delay in salaries, MTNL employees are also demanding that the retirement age not be changed to 50 years from 60. They are also opposing the merger of cash-strapped MTNL and BSNL.
At a high-level meeting at the PMO last month, it was also decided that the two telcos will frame a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) to reduce their employee strength, which will be followed by a reduction in the retirement age to 58 at the two telcos, according to a report in The Times of India.
MTNL will have to wait for at least 18 months to become a part of BSNL as a joint panel will decide the fate of the two PSUs, post-merger, a report in Business Standard said.
--With PTI inputs