(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 01, 2009
BSNL EMPLOYEES UNION SCORES A HAT-TRICK WIN
V A N Namboodiri
THE Membership Verifications of Non-Executive unions in BSNL were always just like mini-parliament elections. The IV Membership Verification held on January 21, 2009 was no different.
The verification process started with the tri-partite meeting of management and participating unions in the presence of the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC). All the 14 unions of non-executives participated. The meeting discussed about the formalities and finalised the procedure. The chief returning officer appointed for conducting the verification was also present.
ON ELECTION SYMBOL
Applications were submitted by all the unions along with their election symbols. Since the same symbol – cell phone – was submitted both by BSNL Employees Union and Federation of National Telecom Organisations (FNTO), which is affiliated to INTUC, the management after consultation with the office of the election commission allotted the cell phone symbol to the BSNLEU. The FNTO’s appeal to the chief returning officer was rejected stating that the symbol belonged to BSNLEU, since it has already contested and won II and III Membership Verification with the same symbol. The FNTO filed an appeal in Delhi’s Patiala Court against this decision. The case also was dismissed. Thus the long drama over symbol was over. The tactics to deprive BSNLEU of its symbol were thus defeated.
As in general elections, alliances are formed here also since only the union which gets the maximum number of votes is recognised. There were two main alliances, one United Forum of BSNL unions led by BSNL Employees Union and the other BSNL Workers Alliance led by NFTE (AITUC) and FNTO (INTUC). The contest was very tight with both the alliances making all out efforts to win the voters to their respective sides. Colourful wall posters, pamphlets, badges with election symbol etc. were printed in lakhs and circulated. Election campaign meetings were held in all centres addressed by all India, circle and district leaders. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of workers attended these meetings.
As general secretary of the existing recognised union, BSNLEU, I attended mammoth meetings in almost all state capitals. Other leaders of BSNLEU and alliance unions also participated. While the campaign of NFTE alliance was full of slanders, abuse and mudslinging against BSNLEU and its leaders, BSNLEU campaign mainly focused on the issues sorted out during the last four years and also the issues which are to be settled. The necessity of sustained struggles against disinvestment/IPO and privatisation was focused. The promotion policy agreement which was recently signed was also explained.
A total of 2305 polling booths were arranged throughout the country. The ballot boxes were taken on loan from the Election Commission of India. More than 10,000 presiding and polling officers were posted. In addition, the polling agents of the participating unions were present in the polling booths. The entire system of general elections was followed including marking of indelible ink on the finger of the voter. Police security was also arranged. About 700 labour officers supervised the whole process. There was no untoward incidents any where.
The counting began by 0900 hours on January 24, 2009 at all district headquarters. The results were first sent to Circle (state) headquarters and after compiling them it was sent to Corporate Office, New Delhi, to the chief returning officer. By eight in the night the entire results were compiled.
Out of the total 2,48,278 voters, 2,36,392 (95.21 per cent) had cast their votes. The number of invalid votes was 2194. Out of 2,34,198 valid votes BSNLEU got 1,24,053 votes (52.47 per cent) and NFTE 95,225 (40.28 per cent) of the polled votes.
The results were officially announced by the chief returning officer on January 24 with all the details regarding Circle wise and Union wise votes. BSNL Employees Union was declared as the union with maximum number of votes secured. Thus for the third consecutive term, BSNLEU has been elected as the majority union for grant of recognition.
It was well understood from the beginning that this was a fight in which the future of BSNL and its workers was at stake. The BSNL Employees Union-led Joint Forum has been continuously opposing the government’s moves to disinvest and privatise the BSNL. Even the announced IPO could not be implemented due to the protest of the unions. The management’s proposal to layoff 50,000 workers under URS/CRS was also defeated. Sustained struggles were organised by the BSNLEU and its allies for settlement of many demands.
In fact, the management wanted a pliable organisation to be elected. Even though on surface they acted as being impartial, they fully supported the NFTE alliance in covert fashion, since they will support the government’s move for IPO etc. But the workers decided otherwise.
This result is the victory of the workers, who celebrated it through out the country. All the combined forces of reaction could not defeat the progressive alliance led by BSNLEU. The union will make all out efforts to ensure that the workers rights are safeguarded.
On this occasion the union thanks all the workers for their staunch support and assure them that BSNLEU will continue its fight against the anti-worker policies of government as also to safeguard the interests of the workers.