PSU telco preparing for life after VRS; may merge circles, shuffle staff to meet a likely manpower crisis.
The overwhelming response to its voluntary retirement scheme seems to have put BSNL in a spot. Of the 1,04,471 eligible employees, 63,854 have opted for VRS till Saturday evening. BSNL had expected around 77,000 employees to accept the offer that closes on December 3, but the actual figure may far surpass this number. The rush to accept the scheme has created an altogether different situation for the state-run telco, which is now struggling with excess staff. It may have to work with less than half of the current strength from February. The company has around 1.5 lakh employees currently.
Senior BSNL officials have been asked to come up with the number of positions required for the smooth functioning of the telco. Though the exact situation will be known after the VRS offer closes on December 3, the response in the first four days points to a situation where the telco will face a staff shortage.
The senior management is considering several options as part of the business continuity plan for BSNL. The date of retirement under the VRS offer is January 31, 2020. This leaves less than three months for the telco to fill essential positions and impart training to new officeholders. The plans being considered to include the merger of smaller circles into larger ones to reduce staff requirement, and the transfer of officers from surplus areas to fill positions in deficit regions, said a senior BSNL official who asked not to be named. The senior management is working on parameters such as the number of lines required to sustain different levels of officers, he said.
Last month, the Union Cabinet had decided to merge BSNL and MTNL and unveiled a Rs 69,000 crore revival package for the PSUs that included the VRS offer and monetisation of assets. The troubled telcos together have Rs 40,000 crore debt. The revival plan comprises Rs 20,140 crore infusion for buying 4G spectrum, sovereign guarantee to help the telcos raise Rs 15,000 crore in debt, Rs 17,160 crore for VRS, and Rs 12,768 crore for retirement liability. The two telcos together will raise Rs 37,500 crore in the next three years through monetisation of assets.