BSNL and MTNL contractual employees would have to fend for themselves as they are on the rolls of their contractors and not of the two state-run telecom companies, Parliament was informed on Thursday (28 November).
Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha from Trinamool Congress (TMC) member Dola Sen, IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that contractual staff are not employees of either the BSNL or MTNL.
"They are contract employees of the contractors who are given a work for a specific purpose, subject to renewal. We have no problem with that but the obligation to pay the dues of the workers is that of the contractors," Prasad said.
On being asked by about the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for the regular employees of the two companies, he said that the package is very attractive.
"The attractive nature of the VRS package is evident from the fact that till date in BSNL, 79,000 people have applied for VRS and in MTNL, out of 20,000 employees, 14,000 have already applied," he said in an oral reply.
The government is currently in the process of reviving the two loss-laden PSUs. The Union Cabinet has already cleared a revival package, which includes the VRS offer to employees, given that the staff strength is far in excess of the requirements.
The two companies earlier stared at closure in the wake of mounting losses, but the government decided to infuse funds to ensure they remain in business. A very high staff load has been one of the key factors dragging them down.
The employee cost of BSNL has been 75.06 per cent of the revenue, whereas in case of MTNL it has been 87.05 per cent. Compared to this, for the rival private companies --Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio -- the employee cost is 2.95 per cent, 5.59 per cent and 4.27 per cent, respectively.
The government has repeatedly expressed its commitment to revive BSNL and MTNL by making them competitive.
"BSNL and MTNL are strategic assets for the country. In case of earthquake, in case of cyclone, for defence purposes only they come and proactively become active. We have, therefore, decided to revive them," Prasad said in the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour in response to a query by the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) MP Prabhakar Reddy.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)