Board suggests drastic steps to boost company's prospects
Over 2.87 lakh employees of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) are an anxious lot, as the Board of Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises (BRPSE) has suggested drastic steps to rationalise its manpower through Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), rolling back of superannuation age to 58, reduction of allowances to workers and large-scale outsourcing.
The Department of Telecommunication (DoT), in its March 1 communication, asked the Chief Managing Director (CMD), BSNL, to submit an action taken report on the recommendations made by BRPSE, by March 31. Meanwhile, trade unions of BSNL have decided to oppose what they termed as “anti-worker” proposals. The Joint Action Committee of the BSNL, which is scheduled to meet at New Delhi on Tuesday, will chalk out the future course of action.
The union organised a lunch-hour demonstration on March 5, and preparations are on for further agitations to protect the interests of workers.
V.A.N. Namboodiri, president, BSNL Employees' Union, said the BSRPE recommendations had not been accepted yet.
According to a communication, the CMD, who made a presentation at the meeting convened by BSRPE on December 21, 2010, explained that the company had 2,87,749 employees with an average age of 48 to 62 years as against 3,97,000 employees at the time of its creation. With the change in technology and the subscribers' shift from landline to mobile phones, a large part of the manpower had become “irrelevant” to the current requirements, he said. The skills of majority of manpower were deemed “outdated.”
While 53 per cent of workers come under the age group of 50 to 60, about 39 per cent are aged between 35 and 49. The operating income had fallen by 22.76 per cent and the manpower cost had increased by 81.31 per cent in the last five years, the CMD observed.
Manpower took away 42 per cent of the revenue of the company, as against the industry average of 5 to 6 per cent, he had said. Based on the presentation of the CMD, the BSRPE suggested that the company take drastic steps like introduction of VRS to increase profits. The BSRPE further advised the BSNL to prepare a timeline to implement this.
Expressing reservation over these recommendations, Circle Secretary Sanchar Nigam Employees' Association, S.B. Nagavi, noted that though reducing of the retirement age would not make much impact on workers, it was the VRS that would be detrimental to their interests.
“The DoT told the BSNL to constitute an internal committee of officers to look into specific issues of VRS. So far, the committee has not submitted its report. If the recommendations are implemented, it is the creamy layer that will opt for VRS and brain drain will seriously affect the prospects of the company”, he said.