Prasad asks BSNL/MTNL to start dialogue with staff on VRS

New Delhi (IANS) Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has directed the ailing telecom PSUs, BSNL and MTNL, to start a dialogue with their employees on the terms and conditions of the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) and prepare a roadmap for its successful implementation, higly placed sources said.

The Union Cabinet had last month approved a revival package for BSNL and MTNL which includes a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for their staff. The aim is to reduce the employee cost of the two companies by offering VRS to their staff aged 50 years and above based on the Gujarat model with some modifications.

The government has set January 31, 2020 as the last date for employees opting for VRS. It will give Rs 17,160-crore for VRS settlements and another Rs 12,768 crore towards retirement liabilities.

BSNL has 1.76 lakh employees, of which some 1.06 lakh are over 50 years of age. The telco is keen that 80 per cent of the employees should opt for the VRS.

MTNL has around 22,000 employees. BSNL's employee cost is 75 per cent of its total income and MTNL's employee cost is 87 per cent of its total income.

The financial health of both PSUs depend on the success of the VRS, the implementation of which would take a minimum of 90 days.

"The Minister on Friday met the boards of both BSNL and MTNL and conveyed to them that the scheme must be implemented with a proper dialogue with the employees, and by presenting them with questions and answers," sources said.

"He told the boards of the two PSUs that it was the finest VRS announced by any PSU, and BSNL and MTNL must be proactive to make it a success," said the sources.

Employees above the age of 53.5 years will get 125 per cent of their salary, which they could have earned in balance period of their service. Employees in the age bracket of 50 to 53.5 years opting for the VRS will get benefit in the range of 80 to 100 per cent of the remuneration to be paid in the balance period of their service. For employees currently more than 55 years of age, on opting for VRS, the pension will be commuted only when they attain 60 years of age (the current retirement age). For the employees, currently of age 55 years and less, on opting for VRS, the pension will be commuted in the sixth year 2024-25.

Prasad also asked the PSUs to take proactive measures to monetise their assets and complete everything in a time-bound manner. "He said there will be strict monitoring, and BSNL/MTNL will have to deliver," sources pointed out.

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