People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 23

June 06, 2010


BSNL Employees Conference Decides to Fight Privatisation


V A N Namboodiri


THE BSNL Employees Union held its fifth all-India conference at Thiruvananthapuram from May 12 to 15. The conference asked the workers of the public sector Bharat sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to intensify their united struggle against disinvestment and privatisation. This is necessary to ensure that this public sector company is saved from the concerted attack of the central government, private tele companies and the multinationals, so that it can expand, grow and give better service to the people.


The conference was held at Suryakanthi auditorium in the premises of the Kanakakkunnu Palace, which was rechristened as “Jyoti Basu Nagar” in memory of this exemplary leader. The entire conference venue and the city were decorated with red flags, banners and large flexi boards with the photos of national and trade union leaders.


The reception committee was headed by Anavoor Nagappan, president of the district panchayat of Thiruvananthapuram as chairman.


The union flag was brought from the Punnapra Vayalar Memorial, where the martyrs of Punnapra Vayalar struggle against the dictatorship of Dewan of Travancore, are buried. Seminars, conventions and a jatha were organised earlier for giving wide publicity to the conference.


In his inaugural speech, CITU vice president M K Pandhe congratulated the BSNL workers for their strike against disinvestment, VRS etc, since April 20 onward, and urged them to join the programmes called by the central trade unions against unrelenting price rise, disinvestment, violation of labour laws, on the issues of unorganised workers etc. He informed the house that the central trade unions had decided to hold a convention at New Delhi in July 2010 to chalk out further programmes. V A N Namboodiri, M M Lawrence (secretary, Kerals state CITU), Muthusundaram (secretary general, AISGEF), Kunhikrishnan (vice president, AIIEA), K G Jayaraj (general secretary, AIBDPA), M Krishnan (working president, NFPE) and K Mohanan (circle secretary, Kerala), among others, also spoke.


Presided by C Jayan Babu, the mayor of Thiruvanathapuram, there was in the evening a seminar on “Challenges Faced by PSUs with Special Reference to BSNL.” K Balakrishnan, Kerala’s minister of home affairs and tourism, inaugurated the seminar, touching upon the various aspects of telecom development and the necessity of improving the services. He said the LDF government has always been in support of the PSUs and cited the instance of providing all mobiles to the state police force from BSNL only. CITU general secretary Tapan Sen narrated the united struggles taking place in the country against the onslaught of the government. He called upon the workers to join the mainstream of struggles being organised by the central trade unions. Some BSNL officials as well as union leaders also participated in the seminar and gave valuable suggestions for the improvement of BSNL.


A procession through the main route from Telephone Exchange premises to the conference hall was organised on May 13 afternoon. Thousands of BSNL workers joined it with red flags and banners, shouting slogans against disinvestment and focussing on the main demands of the workers. Several sister organisations greeted the jatha on its way with their flags and banners.


Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan inaugurated the public meeting at the conference hall, pointing out that the telecom policy of the central government was part of the neo-liberalisation policy and in the interests of the big business and MNCs. The revenue sharing scam at the time of communications minister Sukhram and the present spectrum scam during the period of minister A Raja resulted in a loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the government. He urged the workers to ensure good service to the public. All-India leaders of the BSNL union also spoke.


The Women’s Convention at noon was attended by hundreds of women employees. It was iaugurated by K Hemalatha, secretary of the CITU and convener of the All India Coordinating Committee of Working Women.


Kerala finance minister Dr Thomas Issac addressed the delegates on May 14, giving a picture of the achievements of the LDF government of Kerala. The house heartily applauded the minister when he stated that the LDF government had converted the loss making PSUs into profitable ones.


The reception committee organised cultural programmes, Kalaripayattu, Theyyam etc in the nights.


As many as 2408 delegates, observers and visitors attended the conference. All the states and circles, including J&K, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and North East States etc, were represented. Most of the delegates were above 40 years of age and only 136 delegates were below 40, since there was almost no new recruitment during the last 25 years.


The biennial report presented by the general secretary and audited accounts presented by the treasurer was adopted after discussion in which 85 delegates participated. The delegates expressed their appreciation of the settlement of wage revision as also promotion policy for the non-executives which could be achieved through protracted discussion and militant struggles.


The All India Conference unanimously elected a team of office bearers with V A N Namboodiri as president) and P Abhimanyu as general secretary.


The conference adopted resolutions on wage revision, against disinvestment and privatisation, on improvement in services, and on organisation. It also decided to organise a March to Parliament against disinvestment, privatisation and voluntary retirement scheme (VRS).


--- V A N Namboodiri is president of the BSNL Employees Union.