Thursday, September 7, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Telecom strike hits services
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, Sept 6 — The telecom services across the country were affected today as nearly four lakh telecom employees went on an indefinite strike, demanding the settlement of all labour issues prior to the corporatisation of the Department of Telecom Operations.

The Union Communication Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, termed the strike as ill-timed in the wake of Prime Minister’s visit to the USA and where he is expected to woo foreign investors to enter the telecom sector.

“The strike could send wrong signals to potential investors, especially on the eve of the PM’s visit to the USA,” Mr Paswan said.

The strike comes close on the heels of the government announcing the corporatisation of the Department of Telecom Services, ending the monopoly of VSNL over international calls, and the opening up of the national long distance operations to private players.

The government maintained that no major breakdown of services was reported from any part of the country.

The National Federation of Telecom Services (NFTS) said it has directed the telecom workers not to sabotage telecom networks for any reason. The NFTS is spearheading the strike along with the Bharatiya Telecom Employees Federation and Federation of National Telecom Union.

Mr Paswan said he had held several rounds of talks with the agitating unions and committees formed recently.

Many of their demands, including job security and pension fund have been agreed to. Even casual workers have been made permanent, he said.

The government has already agreed to stand guarantee for the pension fund of the employees and had even given consent to set up a separate fund for the purpose, he said.

He, however, said the demand of the employees to give the pension money from the Consolidated Fund of India has to be decided by the Group of ministers (GoM) which would be possible only after the Prime Minister returns from his US visit.

Mr Paswan said the government would not like to take any extreme action against the striking employees and hoped that the grievances of the employees would be settled through negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Indian Telecom Service Association today said it would go ahead with its agitational programme against corporatisation from tomorrow.

The officers are demanding financial viability of the proposed corporatisation and sustained viability on a long run. They are also demanding a debate on the issue in parliament as the issue affects common people.

The association representing the group “A” officers of the department would launch the agitation through a dharna tomorrow, an association press note said. The dharna would be followed by a relay fast and work to rule from September 12, it said.

Labour minister Satyanarayan Jatiya today initiated a fresh round of talks with the agitating telecom employees . Mr Jatiya was brought in to talk to trade union leaders following a directive from the prime minister’s office, sources said. The negotiations were on till late tonight.

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