Unions oppose BSNL enlisting; threaten indefinite strike

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New Delhi, Jun 2 (UNI) Opposing the listing of state-owned telecom giant Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the Joint Forum of BSNL Unions today demanded the government to drop the proposal, failing which the workers threatened to go on an indefinite strike.

The government had said it planned to dilute 10 per cent equity of the BSNL, which has been valued at a whopping over Rs 4,00,000 crore. The dilution would fetch over Rs 40,000 crore, which can be used by the PSU for expansion of services.

''We strongly protest against the government move to enlist BSNL in stock market. If the government does not drop the proposal of enlisting, we will go for direct action that is an indefinite strike,'' Joint Forum Chairman K Vallinayagam told reporters here.

He also refuted the report, saying the Forum would likely to respond positively to the government's call in this regard.

Recently, an official statement had said Unions will respond positively to a suggestion for listing of BSNL before June 3, which will help the firm in getting Navratna status, essential for maintaining its survival and growth.

The Forum has said the telecom giant has enough fund of over Rs 40,000 crore for implementation of its expansion programme.

''There is no need to go for public as BSNL has sufficient reserve of funds of over Rs 40,000 crore that could be utilised for the upgradation and expansion of services,'' he said.

Mr Villinayagam said the Forum had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene into the matter and save the country's largest telecom firm from being corporatised.

Instead of supporting the PSU, the government has scrapped the Access Deficit Charge (ADC), a levy paid by the private telecom operators to the government to compensate BSNL which offers services in non-lucrative rural areas.

''After phasing out the ADC, we are losing Rs 8,000-9,000 crore every year which is a matter of serious concern...The government must compensate the company, as it is only firm which provides its services in the rural parts of the country,'' Mr Villinayagam said.

The Forum's convener V A N Namboodiri said, ''We also oppose imposition of Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS). The proposal for VRS is unwarranted...'' He said about two and a half lakh workers have already been reduced from six lakhs due to retirement and ban on recruitment for the last 20 years.

About 10,000 officials are retiring every year without any replacement, Mr Namboodiri said, adding that there are chances of surplus staff at certain places in the wake of adopting advanced technology.

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