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BSNL employee unions call for hunger strike due to forced VRS

BSNL is looking at a savings of about ₹7,000 crores in the wage bill if 70,000-80,000 personnel opt for the scheme.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), an Indian state-owned telecommunications company’s Employee Union, has called for a Pan India Hunger Strike from today due to the allegedly forced efforts by the management to take VRS (Voluntarily Retirement Scheme) through fear psychosis.

A Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) is a method used by Public and Private companies to reduce its staff. This applies to employees who have completed 10 years of service or are above 40 years of age. Although, Labor Laws in India do not permit such a method. One is entitled to minimum pension services.

The unions, representing more than half of BSNL employees, have alleged that the management is threatening employees of reduction in the retirement age to 58 years and far away postings if the employees don’t opt for VRS, All India Unions and Associations of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Convenor P Abhimanyu said.

“We are not opposing VRS. Those who want and think it is beneficial for them should opt for it. It is not beneficial for lower-level employees and they are being threatened to take VRS, else retirement age will be reduced to 58. It is a forced retirement scheme, therefore we are going on a hunger strike on Monday,” Abhimanyu said.

The unions, in a notice for a hunger strike, have alleged that those opting for VRS will not be able to apply for pension commutation, which is one-third of pension amount payable over 15 years in advance, only after attaining the age of 60 years.

“In case of any casualty, a person will not be able to apply for pension commutation. His family will get an only family pension which is very less. Those who opt for VRS will not be able to claim the benefit of the third pay revision. … With 4G services starting soon and the proposed tariff hike in the sector, BSNL will become eligible for the third pay revision,” Abhimanyu said.

He alleged that banks a few years back offered better VRS compared to the scheme offered by BSNL, which is not lucrative.

“If management stops threatening employees, the number of employees opting for VRS will significantly come down,” Abhimanyu said.

According to BSNL Chairman and Managing Director P K Purwar, over 77,000 out of around 1.6 lakh employees of the loss-making telecom firm have opted for VRS.

Employees’ benefit accounts for 75-80 percent of the total revenue earned by the company annually. BSNL is looking at a savings of about 7,000 crores in the wage bill if 70,000-80,000 personnel opt for the scheme.

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