BSNL staff on strike from Tuesday; telecom services may be hit

"We have not heard of any concrete decision from the management or from the government. We are beginning strike from six in the morning from tomorrow," Chandeshwar Singh, General Secretary, National Federation of Telecom Employees, told PTI.

"I had a healthy discussion with the trade unions last Friday. They have apprehensions about some recommendations of the Pitroda committee report on BSNL. I cannot disclose any thing more than this about that meeting but I do hope they will call off their strike," Telecom Minister A Raja said on the sidelines of a conference here.

Employees are protesting Pitroda panel's recommendations, which suggested voluntary retirement (VRS) to one lakh staff and 30 per cent disinvestment as part of improving the financial health of the PSU.

The strike call has been given by a joint forum of unions that has both executives and non-executives as members.When contacted, BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Kuldeep Goyal said, "We are making efforts to ensure that services are not affected. Working on a contingency plan. We have about 10,000 senior staff, who are not participating in the strike, besides senior ITS cadre employees."

Goyal also said that a series of meetings were held with the striking unions but unfortunately they decided to go ahead with the strike.Singh said about 50,000 executives and 2.50 lakh non-executive staff is participating in the strike and since almost entire technical staff will be on strike the services are bound to be affected.
BSNL saw profits plummet to Rs 178 crore in 2009-2010 (up to December 2009) from over Rs 575 crore in 2008-09 as the PSU is rapidly losing market share to new entrants. The PSU has 91 million users, both mobile and land line.

The Sam Pitroda panel was set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to suggest ways to improve BSNL's financial health. The panel had banker Deepak Parekh and Telecom Secretary P J Thomas as members.

Besides the scrapping of the divestment plan, the unions are also demanding absorption of the 1,500 Indian Telecom Services (ITS) officers, who have been continuing on deputation for the last 10 years.

The unions are also protesting sharing of BSNL infrastructure, including cables and towers, with private telecom companies

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