Relief for BSNL employees: In good news for lakhs of BSNL employees and their family members, the public sector national telecom operator – Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Wednesday paid the salary for the month of September, ultimately, paving the way for Diwali celebrations. It’s a big relief for nearly 1.6 lakh BSNL employees and officials who have been staring at an uncertain future for quite some time. This was the second instance in the history of BSNL when the company was not able to pay the salary on time that heightened the concerns BSNL staff, forcing them to threaten a one-day symbolic hunger strike last Friday. Financial Express Online was the first to report about the proposed strike ahead of Diwali that prompted BSNL CMD PK Purwar to announce that the salary of BSNL staff will be paid before Diwali.
“Salary for the month of September has been paid today morning,” said a senior BSNL official.
In a significant decision, the Union government also approved a revival package for BSNL and MTNL on Wednesday.
The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved a revival package for the cash strapped PSUs that also entails merger of MTNL with the larger company BSNL which will give BSNL a truly pan-India presence after the acquisition of MTNL’s business in Delhi and Mumbai.
Once among the most profitable PSUs, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited slipped into losses in 2009-10, nine years after its incorporation as a public sector company. Since then the company has been incurring losses but it was able to pay the salary to its staff. However, in June this year, the signs of a looming crisis surfaced for the first time. Though the company was able to pay the salary for the month of June but it defaulted on the payment of salary for the month of August by over 20 days. September was the second month in a row when the company could not arrange the fund to clear its wage bill.
According to the sources in the company, BSNL has a monthly wage bill of over Rs 850 crore. In addition to this, the company also needs to pay interest on the loans, establishment costs like payment of rent for office space, fuel cost for vehicles, electricity bill and vendor payment among other things. This leaves a shortfall of nearly Rs 1,000 crore a month in the revenue earned by BSNL and its liabilities including the wage bill.
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Non-payment of salary for the two months in a row coupled with the delay in the announcement of a revival plan by the government accentuated the problem. The department of telcom has submitted a Rs 74,000 crore revival plan for BSNL and MTNL which was under consideration of the government. However, news reports about the finance ministry’s purported decision to reject the revival package put forward by the department of telecommunication aggravated the situation.
Sources in the two telecom PSUs – BSNL and MTNL – termed it a bit strange as the Modi government announced a 5% hike in the dearness allowance (DA) of central government employees and pensioners early this month. This relief to central government employees would cost the government exchequer Rs 16,000 a year on recurring basis.
This led to hectic lobbying and protest from BSNL and MTNL staff that prompted their management to clear the salaries before Diwali. While BSNL staff had threatened a hunger strike by office bearers of employee unions, MTNL staff had threatened to take out a candlelight protest march to the Prime Minister’s Office.
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A source in the BSNL confirmed to Financial Express Online that the salary for the month has been paid in the all the circles.