Imagine how difficult it would be for a company to survive after a huge chunk of its staff decides to leave. Well, in the case of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited — the state-run telecom behemoths — the percentage is around 55 and 75 after the introduction of Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS).
So, if your landline connection is going dead, or you are unable to browse the internet at a high speed, despite paying for 4G, you are not the only one!
The voluntary retirement scheme was introduced to help companies get rid of the surplus staff. This came into action to help companies facing debt crisis or slowdown since the labour laws do not permit direct retrenchment of unionized employees.
But, VRS applies to only those employees who have been working for 10 years or more and are above the age of 40 years, which may vary from company to company.
So, if VRS was introduced to lay down the burden of surplus employees from the companies, how is it affecting their service now?
“Officials say the recent voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) has reduced the workforce and that is hampering the service quality,” points out Vinod Desai, an Ahmedabad-based retired bank official, who’s planning to shift to a private service provider from BSNL for a landline connection.
Geo Verghese, a businessman from the same city, has found the internet speed of the BSNL broadband connection “unsatisfactory”.
Well, if BSNL is a pan-Indian story of increasingly indifferent service, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL), the other state-owned telco that operates only in Delhi and Mumbai, is no better.
As mentioned before, around 75 per cent of the MTNL staff took the VRS offer and left recently. And, it doesn’t help when a customer lands up at the almost-deserted MTNL offices, whether in Mumbai or Delhi.
The situation is quite contrasting in BSNL headquarters at downtown Janpath in New Delhi.
PK Purwar, chairman & managing director, BSNL, said on Saturday that the existing employees have responded well to the challenges. The numbers are big: BSNL and MTNL have shed 92,869 at one go through the VRS. While BSNL let go of 78,569, MTNL’s offer was taken by 14,300.
Of the total number of BSNL employees who took VRS, a majority — 55,000 — made up for non-executive staff. In the case of MTNL too, the non-executive category formed the chunk in taking VRS.
In case you don’t know, together they have around 123 million subscribers (mobile and landline) in the country out of a total telecom user base of over 1.2 billion. In landline, these two hold over 60 per cent of the market share.
Admitting that BSNL was overstaffed, a senior BSNL executive said the overall impact of the VRS on the company’s operations was minimal. In fact, both MTNL and BSNL executives claimed it was business as usual.
However, the state-level executives sounded more realistic.
In BSNL’s Gujarat circle, for instance, tenders are being floated across the circle units for roping in outsource partners following guidelines from the corporate office recently. Of the roughly 10,000 workforce in the state, around 6,468 opted for VRS, leaving the circle with staff strength of just 3,532.
Similarly, at BSNL offices in Hyderabad, officers managing the post-VRS situation have redeployed staff from back-end administrative work at customer service centres.
In Chennai, where almost 33 exchanges out of the total of over 200 in the city and its suburbs barely had...
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