25 Nov, 2019 9:44p.m.

BSNL Employees go on hunger strike against alleged forced for VRS

BSNL employee went on a hunger strike today against being forced to take VRS. The unions allege that the management is forcing personnel to opt for voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) by creating a fear psychosis.

The unions, representing more than half of BSNL employees, have alleged that the management is threatening employees of reduction in the retirement age to 58 years and far away postings if the employees don't opt for VRS, 

"We are not opposing VRS. Those who want and think it is beneficial for them should opt for it. It is not beneficial for lower-level employees and they are being threatened to take VRS, else retirement age will be reduced to 58. It is a forced retirement scheme, therefore we are going on a hunger strike on Monday," All India Unions and Associations of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (AUAB) Convenor Abhimanyu said.

According to the VRS 2019, an employee who goes on VRS can apply for pension commutation only when he/she attains the age of 60. But, as per the existing CSS Pension Rules 1972, an employee has to apply for pension commutation within one year of his retirement. Otherwise, the person has to undergo a medical examination which may create many unwanted problems for the employee. Also, if an employee dies before applying for pension commutation- in between the date of VRS and date of attaining 60 years old- then the family of the employee is not entitled to getting the same.

So, the unions demand that necessary amendments should be made to the Commutation of Pension Rules before forcing them to take VRS. 

"In case of any casualty, a person will not be able to apply for pension commutation. His family will get only the family pension which is very less. Those who opt for VRS will not be able to claim the benefit of the third pay revision. With 4G services starting soon and the proposed tariff hike in the sector, BSNL will become eligible for the third pay revision," Abhimanyu said.

He alleged that banks a few years back offered better VRS compared to the scheme offered by BSNL, which is not lucrative.

"If management stops threatening employees, the number of employees opting for VRS will significantly come down," Abhimanyu said.

According to BSNL Chairman and Managing Director P K Purwar, over 77,000 out of around 1.6 lakh employees of the loss-making telecom firm have opted for VRS.

According to the plan, all regular and permanent employees of BSNL, including those on deputation to other organisations or posted outside the corporation on deputation basis, who attended the age of 50 years or above are eligible to seek voluntary retirement under the scheme.

The amount of ex-gratia for any eligible employee will be equal to 35 days salary for each completed year of service and 25 days salary for every year of service left until superannuation.

Employees' benefit accounts for 75-80 per cent of the total revenue earned by the company annually. BSNL is looking at a savings of about ₹7,000 crores in the wage bill if 70,000-80,000 personnel opt for the scheme.

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