Alleging that they are being coerced to opt for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), BSNL employee unions have started a hunger strike on Monday. According to the unions, contrary to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasadâs remarks that opting for VRS will be purely voluntary, the BSNL management is allegedly creating a fear psychosis in the minds of the employees with regards to the reduction of retirement age, long distance transfers, increased workload, etc., thereby compelling them to take up VRS.
In a statement, they said that employees were being forced to opt for VRS without necessary amendments to the CCS Pension Rules of 1972. The unions demanded that necessary amendments be made to remove the hurdles in the payment of pension commutation to those who take up VRS.
âEnsure the benefit of 3rd Pay Revision, when implemented retrospectively, to those who go on VRS. Do not roll back the retirement age of BSNL employees. Honour the commitment given at the time of absorption in BSNL, vide BSNL letter no. BSNL/4/SR/2000 dated 02 January, 2001, wherein it is stated, âAge of superannuation for all the non-Board level employees in BSNL will be regulated in accordance with Government rulesâ,â the statement read.
In addition, as part of the strike, unions are also demanding that BSNLâs 4G service be launched immediately and that the third pay revision be settled without any delay. They are also worried that those who opt for VRS will not be able to claim the benefit of the third pay revision.
The unions also want the company to hold talks with them on an immediate basis to discuss transfers, manpower management and the organisation structure, in the post-VRS scenario.
âImmediate remittance of recoveries made since May 2019, on account of GPF contribution society dues, bank loan EMI, LIC premium, union subscription, etc., to the concerned organisations,â the statement added.
The other demands include ensuring immediate pension revision to BSNL employees, timely payment of salaries to employees, immediate payment of wage arrears to contract workers, and settling the issue of 30% superannuation benefit to Directly Recruited employees.
All India Unions and Associations of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (AUAB) Convenor P Abhimanyu said that if DoT and the BSNL management do not address the issues of employees, they will appeal to employees to withdraw from VRS.
As per the latest figures, nearly 80,000 employees have opted for the VRS scheme.
On October 23, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced a VRS scheme where if any officer who is over 53.5 years of age opts for VRS, they will be given 125% remuneration of salary, pension and gratuity till the age of 60. This was done in a bid to bring down costs and keep the debt-ridden telecom player afloat.
BSNL had set an internal target of 77,000 employees opting for the VRS scheme, which is open till December 3. If 70,000-80,000 employees opt for VRS, BSNL will reportedly save about Rs 7,000 crore in wage bills.