People's Democracy

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


No. 18

May 05, 2013




BSNL Employees Union Scores Fifth Consecutive Victory


V A N Namboodiri  


THE Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Employees Union (BSNLEU) has once again won the first position in membership verification conducted by the BSNL management for electing the recognised union of non-executive workers. This is the fifth time in a row when the BSNLEU has won with flying colours.


The verification through secret ballot was conducted on April 16 and the result announced on April 18. The membership verification is conducted in a systematic way on the line of the parliament and assembly elections. This time there were 2,230 polling booths with 2,04,468 voters spread over 35 telecom circles. More than 10,000 officials including presiding officers, polling officers and polling agents were employed, while hundreds of labour officers supervised. The ballot boxes, as also the guidance in conducting the election, were received from the Election Commission and the chief labour commissioner. The voting was held on one single day all over the country, even in the Andaman  & Nicobar (A&N) Islands.




While 18 unions contested the election, the main contenders were only the BSNL Employees Union, NFTE and FNTO. In the membership verifications held so far, the BSNLEU had won with 50 per cent or above of the total polled votes, except in the first which went to the NFTE. As per the guidelines adopted by all the central trade unions decades back, only the majority union is recognised and the BSNLEU continued as the sole recognised union for the last eight years.


However, the BSNLEU felt it would not be conducive to the company’s growth and for the democratic process if a good section, though a minority, is kept away from the right of representation. Accordingly, it took up the matter with the chief labour commissioner and the management for a change in recognition rules. As per the new rules, a union getting 50 per cent or more of total votes (not the polled) will be recognised as the sole recognised union. In case no union gets more than 50 per cent, two unions getting more than 15 per cent of votes will be recognised. All the unions getting more than seven per cent of votes will be eligible to get seats in the negotiating councils at the all-India, circle and SSA levels on the basis of proportionate representation.


This time the management issued the election notification in January 2013.


While most of the unions confined their campaign to the financial demands of the workers and to attacking the recognised union, viz BSNLEU, the latter mainly focussed on the anti-worker policies of the government, on the need and strengthen to save BSNL, a public sector major, and on providing better service to the nation. BSNLEU leaders explained how the BSNL was being discriminated against; how it is being deprived of the necessary equipment like phone instruments, mobile lines, broad-band modems, cables etc; which are required for expansion and development of services. They also educated the workers how the company was being made financially unviable by the government which had taken away crores of surplus cash with BSNL in the name of spectrum charges, licence fee etc.




The fact is that the government has washed its hands of all the solemn assurances it had given at the time of formation of BSNL, like reimbursement of licence fee, compensation from USO Fund towards providing and maintaining loss making connections in the village, payment by ADC etc. The neo-liberal policies being implemented by the government since the 1990s have resulted in a weakening of the BSNL, as of all the public sector undertakings (PSUs). Further, the top management of the company has done little to develop and expand the services, the main reason being that these top level ITS officers are mainly on deputation from government service and not the absorbed employees of the BSNL. The BSNLEU has been emphasising the positive role of employees in improving the services and taking care of the customers’ requirements.


The BSNLEU campaign also explained the achievements made during the last eight years when the former was the sole recognised union. The positive wage revision of 2007, the new promotion policy, group insurance and many other such settlements have given good benefits to the workers. The BSNLEU also took initiative in uniting all the executive and non-executive unions to fight together for saving and improving the BSNL.


The voting on April 16 took place peacefully. Out of 2,04,468 employees, 1,93,121 (94.45 per cent) participated in the voting. The result was announced on April 18 evening after compiling and finalising the results received from all the 35 circles.


As expected, the BSNLEU won the election with 99,380 votes (48.6 per cent of total votes and 51.45 per cent of votes polled). The NFTE came second with 61,915 votes (30.28 per cent of total and 32.06 of polled votes). The FNTO could muster 14,088 votes (6.89 per cent total and 7.21 per cent of polled votes) only. As per the new recognition rules, both the BSNLEU and NFTE will be recognised as the main recognised representative union and second recognised representative union respectively. The BSNLEU is eligible to get nine seats and NFTE will get 5 seats in the negotiating councils at the national, circle and SSA (secondary switching area) levels, on the basis of the votes polled by them. The FNTO and other 16 unions will neither get recognition nor seats in the councils.


The results of the membership verification show that more than 50 per cent of the workers support the BSNLEU and its policies. There is nothing new in it as in all the last five verifications it has won more than 50 per cent of the polled votes.


This time the BSNLEU got a massive majority in all circles except seven, viz in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, National Capital Region of Delhi, Tamilnadu and Corporate Office. Here also, however, it has improved much compared to the last election. The BSNLEU regained first position in another five circles, viz Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Chennai and LTTC, where it lost the last time. It got more than 50 per cent in A&N Islands, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala,  Maharashtra,   NE-I, NE-II, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Kolkata Telephones, BRBRAIT, Telecom Factory Kolkata, Inspection Circle and Telecom Stores. In total, the BSNLEU has this time won in 28 circles out of 35. The ratio of the seats in the councils at all levels will be in accordance with the ratio at the all-India level.




This is a victory for the correct policy being adopted by the BSNL Employees Union. More than the financial and other benefits the union has achieved for the workers, the latter appreciated the struggle organised at the initiative of the union to defend the BSNL and its workers. The complete strike in July 2007 against cancellation of tender for 45 million mobile equipment, which was joined even by the executives for the first time, was what compelled the management to restore at least half of the tender orders. This was a shining example of struggle. The strike in April and December 2010 for ensuring a pension revision for pre-2007 retirees is another instance. The sustained propaganda and pressure through the ‘Subscriber Delight’ programme initiated by the Joint Action Committee (JAC), pioneered by the BSNLEU, has done a lot to restore the services that were deteriorating due to the government’s deliberate moves.


The BSNLEU organised continued agitations and strikes against the disinvestment and privatisation policies of the government, which compelled the latter to postpone the disinvestment programme. The same is true about the proposal of retrenching 1,00,000 lakh workers  through the so-called ‘voluntary’ retirement scheme (VRS). Due to the strong resistance from workers, the management has failed to implement its VRS scheme so far. What happened to the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) and its workers after its takeover by the Tatas is well known to the workers and they do not want the same to be repeated in the BSNL.


The BSNLEU has given assurance to the workers that it stands for strengthening this public sector undertaking and providing better services to the people. It will fight neo-liberal policies which are against the interests of an overwhelmingly large majority of the people. The participation of the BSNLEU in all the strikes and agitations called for by the central trade union organisations during the last many years shows its commitment to the people. It is committed to continue with this tested policy and agitations.


The victory of the BSNLEU in the recent membership verification process is a victory for the progressive section of workers. Due to its initiative, proportionate representation has now been introduced in the negotiation councils. It has shown that it stands for genuine democratic process.


The BSNL Employees Union has conveyed its thanks to the thousands of workers and well-wishers who have once again elected it with a good majority.