In Kerala, BSNL plans to reduce contract employees by 30%

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Salary of regular staff delayed for second month in a row in Kerala

Even as the contract workers of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) in Kerala are on a protest demanding pending wages for around seven months, the organisation, in a circular sent to all circles a week ago, directed for the reduction of contract labour by 30% in terms of numbers as well as expenditure, in the first phase.

Meanwhile, the salaries of the regular employees have been delayed for a second month in succession, with no solution in sight before Onam.

The direction from the institution to reduce contract staff is based on the observations of its audit committee, a meeting of which was convened on August 20. It further says that contract workers should be engaged only for activities that cannot be performed by the regular employees. The number of days for engagement of contract workers should also be reduced to three days, “where it is inevitable to engage.”

Employees’ Unions see these moves to reduce employee costs as an attempt to outsource major outdoor work to big companies.

“As part of the BSNL revival package, a voluntary retirement scheme is expected to be offered. With the current situation of delayed wages, quite a few might think of taking up the offer. Once the number of regular staff reduces, and with the new norms on engaging contract staff, some major work will probably be outsourced to major companies,” said BSNL Casual Contract Labour Union (CCLU) working president K. Mohanan.

Many of the contract staff have professional experience ranging from two to three decades. In the past few months, close to 2,000 contract staff have been asked to leave, by making arbitrary changes in the retirement age.

With wages pending for many months, the workers had begun a protest in front of the Chief General Manager (CGM)’s office two months ago. On August 19, the CGM had written to the corporate office requesting urgent fund authorisation to clear the pending wages of contract workers, as “Kerala is badly affected by heavy downpour and flood in seven districts.”

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