Nearly 92,700 employees of BSNL and MTNL have opted for voluntary retirement, which is expected to save about Rs 8,800 crore annually in salary bills for the debt-laden telecom companies.
Top officials of both state-run firms have said that the numbers have exceeded the target set for the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), which closed on Tuesday.
In case of BSNL, over 78,300 employees opted for voluntary retirement, which is over half of the company's total manpower. While as many as 14,378 employees of MTNL, accounting for 76% of the total strength, opted for the VRS.
"Approximately 78,300 employees have opted for the VRS as per data received from all the circles till the closing of the scheme. Besides VRS applicants, around 6,000 employees have retired. This is as per our target. We were expecting reduction of 82,000 headcount," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director P K Purwar told PTI.
The company estimates that the reduction in employees strength will help the company reduce the wage bill by about 50% to Rs 7,000 crore annually from Rs 14,000 crore at present, he said.
MTNL Chairman and Managing Director Sunil Kumar said that the PSU too has exceeded the target set for the VRS.
"14,378 employees have opted for VRS against target of 13,650 employees. This will reduce our annual salary bill from Rs 2,272 crore to Rs 500 crore. Now we are left with 4,430 employees, which is sufficient to run our business," Kumar said.
Wages bill has been one of the prime reasons for both debt-ridden public sector units running in to loss. BSNL had posted a loss of Rs 14,904 crore and MTNL Rs 3,398 crore in 2018-19.
Total debt on both the companies stood at Rs 40,000 crore, of which half of the liability is on MTNL alone which operates in Delhi and Mumbai.
In case of BSNL, employee cost was around 75% of the total revenue that company earned and 87% at the MTNL that reduced ability of the PSUs to generate cash flows and invest in business expansion.
The government in October announced a revival package of Rs 68,751 crore for debt-ridden BSNL and MTNL which included Rs 17,169 crore on account of ex-gratia on VRS and Rs 12,768 crore due to preponement of pensionary benefits spread over a period of 10 years through budgetary allocation for VRS.
Under the scheme over 1 lakh BSNL and 16,300 employees at MTNL were eligible for VRS which was rolled out on November 4.
The revival package announced by the government also includes full cost of spectrum (excluding goods and services tax) of Rs 14,115 crore for BSNL and of Rs 6,295 crore for MTNL to be funded by the government through equity infusion and subscription to non-cumulative preference shares, respectively.
The GST component of Rs 3,674 crore on the cost of spectrum will also be funded through budgetary allocation from the government.
The government has also approved sovereign guarantee bonds of Rs 15,000 crore to be raised and serviced by BSNL and MTNL to meet their operational expenses.