BSNL contractual workers on strike over non-release of 20 months’ salary

[Staff Reporter]

ITANAGAR, Nov 26: Contractual staffers of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) went on a strike on Thursday to exhibit their resentment over the delay in disbursement of their salaries for 20 months now.

Staging a protest outside the BSNL office near Gandhi Market here, the workers sought immediate payment of their pending salaries and clearance of their employees’ provident fund (EPF).

The salaries of the contractual workers have reportedly been pending since April 2019 and their EPF has been stopped since 2018.

A protesting worker informed that they currently receive Rs 9,776 per month, excluding the EPF. However, they have not received their full salaries for over a year, the worker said, and informed that in 2020 some of them have been receiving small amounts of payments ranging between Rs 2,442 and Rs 4,884.

Displeased with the lackadaisical attitude of the BSNL authorities, the workers raised slogans of “No pay, no work.”

“We are about 270 contractual workers who have not received our salaries and EPF. The authorities here keep saying that they have not received funds, but our wages are low and we should be given our salaries regularly,” a worker who arrived from Tirap district to participate in the protest said.

“As soon as we announced the strike, the authorities passed an order that we would be engaged only for 15 days, but we know that we will be put to work for a month. We were not informed of the reasons why. Their (authorities) salaries haven’t stopped, so it does not bother them. It’s the contractual workers who work tirelessly day or night; no one even bothers if the workers get injured during duty. We should be the ones getting our salaries on time,” he said.

“How long will we live on loans from friends and family? We are seeking what we have rightfully earned,” another worker said.

Later, BSNL Itanagar GM Arun Siram came out to address the workers and explained that all their wage bills have been forwarded to the paying authority, the circle office in Dimapur (Nagaland), as the Itanagar office does not release payments.

“None of your bills is pending from the office here. All your wages’ bills have been forwarded. On enquiry, we have been informed that the fund is released from the corporate office in Delhi centrally and online,” Siram said.

He acknowledged that their demands are genuine, and informed that their representation has been forwarded to the CGM and the circle GM (HR), requesting early release of payments.

“We are hopeful that the matter will be taken up by the centre,” he said.

“About Rs 44 lakhs per month is required to pay the 276 contractual workers of the BSNL in Arunachal. We are trying our best to ensure that payments are made and hence, we had managed to make part payments in the past few months,” Chief Accounts Officer G Padu informed.

Unhappy with the response, the workers said they would continue with the strike if the higher authorities do not take strong measures to release their pending salaries and EPF.

Other demands of the workers include no retrenchment of contractual workers through the SLA outsourcing system; re-engaging all the retrenched contractual workers; revision of wages based on the 7th Central Pay Commission; gratuity payment and death claims; regularization of casual workers; and equal pay for equal work.