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BSNL Contract Labourers' Union Condemns Modi Government

The contract workers say the new outsourcing process has severely affected them.

Kolkata: Amidst mounting concerns, BSNL's contract labourers find themselves grappling with the removal of crucial benefits and heightened job uncertainty, shining a spotlight on issues with Modi government's policies.

"It is unfortunate that contract employees of BSNL have been working in the department for the past 20 to 25 years continuously. Earlier, the provisions of the minimum wage of the Indian government and statutory benefits like the Provident Fund, Employees' State Insurance, and gratuity were extended to them. However, these facilities have been withdrawn lately in the name of the Service Level Agreement. A new tool for the harassment of contract workers has been created under the guise of a new wage agreement," said Tapas Ranjan Ghosh, a BSNL contract employee, while speaking to NewsClick.

"First of all, not all contract employees have been covered under it. BSNL has withdrawn from its position as the principal employer under this arrangement, and provisions for minimum wage, PF, and gratuity have been revoked. Some are now being paid as low as Rs 5,000 per month, and we have obtained these reports during our recent two-day conference at Shramik Bhawan in Kolkata," he added.

Issues such as the deliberate weakening of the state-owned telecom service provider BSNL were discussed at the conference. Delegates highlighted their challenges in the competitive market due to the lack of access to cutting-edge technologies like 4G and 5G, which other telecom service providers have been granted. 

"Many of our employees have been with us since the DoT period, when the entire telephone infrastructure was a part of the Department of Telecom, Government of India," Ghosh said.

He further said the new outsourcing process has severely affected the staff. While earlier, there were 5,000 to 6,000 employees, a mere 600 to 700 were retained, and the others were terminated, he said. BSNL is not willing to acknowledge its responsibilities as the principal employer. 

"An agreement made during the DoT to BSNL transformation, promising the gradual regularisation of contract employees, has been repeatedly violated. Even after 23 years of continuous work, contract employees are being dismissed in the name of the service level agreement," he said. 

Another demand of the contract employees has been the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission, which has not been fulfilled. Over 214 employees across 22 states raised this demand during the conference. Meanwhile, the contractors are also failing to provide salaries on time.

Animesh Mitra, Secretary General of BSNL Contract Labourers' Union, stated, "The current challenge is to prevent the retrenchment of contract employees, as around 80,000 BSNL employees have opted for the voluntary retirement scheme. The BSNL management's target now is to lay off 50,000 contract employees nationwide. The delegates have discussed these issues and have decided to initiate a strong movement against the Modi government at the centre," he told NewsClick.

The conference was also addressed by Anadi Sau, CITU West Bengal State Secretary, who denounced the steps taken by the Central Government to marginalize public sector companies. The Modi government, according to Sau, acts as a pawn for the corporate lobby and is pursuing an anti-Indian agenda, essentially divesting the country of strategic assets like BSNL.

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