பொதுச்செயலர் தோழர். K.G.ஜெயராஜ் கட்டுரை
Pension Revision in BSNL – Illusions and realities.
K.G. Jayaraj, General Secretary, AIBDPA
When BSNL was formed as a fully government owned PSU under Company Act on 01.10.2000, the employees were offered pension from the consolidated fund of the government. And for this, rule 37 A was incorporated in CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972. The pay scales of BSNL employees were also upgraded from CDA to IDA scales. There was a strong argument during this time from certain union leadership, particularly Com. O.P. Gupta that pension should be paid on CDA scales. This argument was unitedly resisted and defeated under the leadership of Com. V.A.N. Namboodiri and the progressive section with the all round support of the other unions. If the argument of Com. O.P. Gupta was agreed to, there would have been huge loss in the pension of BSNL pensioners.
The issue of pension revision arose after the pay revision in BSNL and other CPSEs w.e.f. 01.01.2007. The DoT as well as the government refused to revise the pension for the pre-2007 BSNL pensioners on the plea that there is no provision for pension revision in the Rule 37 A. This was fought tooth and nail by not only the pensioners organisation but all the serving employees unions and succeeded in getting pension revision.
Then came the issue of pension revision on 78.2% IDA or benefit of the merger of 50% IDA with pay. The BSNL employees were granted this benefit notionally from 01.01.2007 with financial effect from 10.06.2013. But the government was not prepared to implement it to those retired before 10.06.2013. The main hurdle pointed out was 60:40 condition for payment of pensionary benefits. Still, with the serious intervention of the employees organisations, powered with two strikes, compelled the government to scrap the 60:40 condition and granted the 78.2% IDA fixation to BSNL pensioners.
During the course of this long and sustained struggle, some people advocated the idea of 7th Pay Commission fixation formula for the BSNL pensioners. What made these people to prefer such a demand was the continuous loss incurring of BSNL. It is more or less the same demand Com. Gupta had put ward and rejected by all. So now these people say that 7th Pay Commission fixation should be implemented on IDA scale. The justification for such a demand is that BSNL pensioners are covered under CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972. Yes CCS (Pension) Rules ensures BSNL pensioners, all the pensionary benefits being granted to central government pensioners, but barring pension, and medical facilities (IDA pattern). As far as pension is concerned, BSNL retirees are governed by Rule 37 A, amended during formation of BSNL. Even if, the government agrees for fixation formula on 7th Pay Commission recommendation, it would become imperative to be downgraded to CDA scales as per existing rule.
It was just a couple of years ago that MTNL retirees were granted pension and other benefits at par with BSNL pensioners, but only after downgrading the pay scales to BSNL pay scales.
Let us come back to BSNL. These people had written off BSNL stating that even ‘God’ cannot revive BSNL and bring it to profits. And on an occasion CMD BSNL said that there will be no pay revision in BSNL w.e.f. 01.01.2017, these people became very jubilant and were in a celebrating mood. But the continued efforts of the employees, spearheaded by all the unions and the Management brought out a wonderful turn around posting operational profits of Rs.672 crore in 2014-15 and Rs.3,856 crore in 2015-16. This made the CMD BSNL to change his earlier stand and assured a decent pay revision in BSNL. The survival of BSNL as a government PSU is very much warranted to ensure telecom services to the people at affordable rates and save them from the sheer exploitation of the greedy private telecom companies.
After the 3rd PRC submitted it’s report, both BSNL Management and DoT had taken a positive stand on pay revision in BSNL, despite the affordability condition in the PRC report. However, it is reported that in the Secretaries meeting under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary held on 12.05.2017, the Additional Secretary of Department of Telecom took a passive stand. All the unions and associations under the leadership of BSNLEU therefore has decided for a phased program of agitation, culminating in a strike on 27.07.2017, demanding pay revision and pension revision. Affordability conditions are nothing new. There had been such affordability condition in the 1st and 2nd PRC also. The 3rd PRC in its report itself has reproduced the operational portion put forward by the 1st and 2nd PRC.
Ist PRC – 2.4.8(a) Affordability.
CPSEs which did not make profit during the last three years would also be allowed to adopt the same recommended pay scales, but with the approval of the administrative ministries in consultation with DPE.
IInd PRC – 2.4.10(a) Affordability.
The parameter for deciding affordability was that by implementing the pay package, the dip in the profit of CPSEs for the year 2007-08 should not exceed 20% in respect of executives. If the dip is more than 20%, then the pay package would not be implemented in full, but in different part stages.
As for scoring, the CPSEs were categorised into five groups. A+, A, B, C and D. The 2nd PRC recommended 5 sets of pay scales for five categories. It also recommended different fitment method.
But after the struggle of the workers, the government was compelled to reject the categorisation and a uniform pay scales was prescribed.
Fitment was also made uniform with @ 30% of BP + DA. The 3rd PRC in it’s executive summary, para 5, has recommended that “Affordability condition shall not be applicable to such CPSEs which are formed to perform specific agenda of the government”.
The CMD BSNL in his DO letter dated 07.06.2017 to Secretary, DoT, with copy to Secretary, DPE has quoted the above recommendation and has effectively pleaded that it is very much applicable to BSNL. BSNL is committed to implement the Telecom Policy, 1999. BSNL is incurring loss for keeping up the social obligation of the government by giving landlines in rural areas. And it is no private telecom company but BSNL alone restoring the telecom services where national calamities strikes the country. Also it is the BSNL which is extending telecom services in the terrorist / naxal affected areas by installing sufficient number of towers. CMD also has specifically mentioned about the urgency of pension revision of 2 lakh BSNL pensioners along with the wage revision.
Pay Revision is very much possible, so also pension revision.
Therefore, there is nothing to be disappointed but to be confident that we shall achieve pay revision and pension revision through united and sustained struggle of the workers and whole heartily supported by the pensioners. There would not be much difficulty in the pension revision, once the pay revision is implemented, as there is no 60:40 condition. On the contrary 100% liability is with the Central Government.
Those who have no faith in organization and the struggles, through which only, we have achieved all the genuine demands of both workers and pensioners, may continue to spread rumours and half truths to confuse the pensioners. The legacy of Com. O.P. Gupta was “it is not the responsibility of unions to fight against government policies and that is the job of political parties.”
These people are least concerned about the continuance of BSNL as a government PSU to ensure telecom services at affordable rates to the common people. They are also not concerned about two lakh BSNL employees. And their mindset has narrowed down to ‘let the BSNL and it’s employees go to the hell but give us our pension revision at any cost’.
Let us focus on the programme of struggle already chalked out by all the unions and associations for pay revision and pension revision so that it is made a grand success.
And definitely victory will be ours.