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BSNL, MTNL Workers Choose VRS

On Friday, Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash said more than 57,000 BSNL workers have opted for VRS in the last few days and the figures when combined with that of state-owned MTNL surpass 60,000.

Since the project was announced earlier this week, the number of VRS opted has steadily increased. For Friday alone, the numbers for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) rose to over 57,000 by night from 40,000 in the late afternoon.

“Overall, for BSNL and MTNL combined over 60,000 employees have opted for VRS so far. For BSNL alone, the number has crossed 57,000 employees,” Prakash told reporters here.

Prakash said the response was “unprecedented,” and the overall goal of the government was 94,000.

Last month, the government approved a BSNL and MTNL plum Rs 69,000 crore turnaround package that includes combining the two loss-making companies, monetizing their assets, and providing VRS to employees to make the merged company profitable in two years.

Earlier on Friday, BSNL Chairman and Managing Director PK Purwar told reporters that more than 40,000 workers had already opted for the VRS program. That estimate had swelled to 57,000 within hours, as increasing numbers of workers made their choices clear.

Out of its total worker’s strength of 1.50 lakh, almost one lakh BSNL worker is qualifying for the VRS. The scheme launched on November 5 will be open until December 3. If 70,000-80,000 staff opt for the scheme, BSNL is looking at savings of around Rs 7,000 crore in the wage bill.

According to ‘ BSNL Voluntary Retirement Scheme-2019, ‘ all regular and permanent BSNL staff, including those on deputation to other organizations or posted on deputation basis outside BSNL, who are eligible for voluntary retirement under the scheme when they are 50 years of age or older.
For each qualifying worker, the sum of ex-gratia will be equivalent to 35 days ‘ salary for each completed year of service and 25 days ‘ salary for each year of service remaining before retirement.

For its workers, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) has also rolled out a VRS. The scheme will be available to employees until December 3, 2019, based on the VRS Gujarat Model.

Recently, in a notice provided by MTNL to employees, it claimed that “all normal and permanent 50-year-old and above employees as of January 31, 2020” are eligible for the scheme.

Last month, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal to merge MTNL – providing services in Mumbai and New Delhi – with BSNL serving the rest of the country.

The government-approved rescue package includes injection of Rs 20,140 crore for 4 G spectrum acquisition, Rs 3,674 crore for GST payable on spectrum allocation, companies collecting Rs 15,000 crore in debt on the sovereign guarantee and government funding Rs 17,160 crore VRS and another Rs 12,768 crore on retirement liability.

The profits from the issue of sovereign bonds will be debt restructuring and another spending. Only the PSUs will have to support the bond. In the next three years, the two firms will also monetize assets worth Rs 37,500 crore.

For nine of the past 10 years, MTNL has recorded losses, and since 2010, BSNL has also been losing. The total debt on both companies amounted to Rs 40,000 crore, half of which is on MTNL alone.

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