The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Union lobbies against PSU downsize

Calcutta, July 4: The road to reforms does not look smooth for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government.

The government's second phase of restructuring of 29 loss-making public sector undertakings has raised the hackles of the Coordination Committee of Government Employees and Associations, Bengal's largest government employees' body controlled by the CPM.

A delegation from the employees' body met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today and expressed unhappiness over the proposed downsizing exercise.

The government has already submitted a proposal to foreign donors, including the Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank, seeking Rs 1,700 crore for funding early retirement schemes for the employees.

Employees of a number of organisations are controlled by the coordination committee. These include Minor Irrigation Corporation, Essential Commodities Supply Corporation, West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation, Agro Industries Development Corporation, the five government dairies as well as the magazine, Shilpa Barta.

'We are opposed to the concept of early retirement schemes. Excess staff in one company can always be re-deployed elsewhere. In any case, most of these companies were started with a social motive and profit-making was never an objective there,' said Jyotiprasad Basu, general secretary of the co-ordination committee, after the meeting.

Bhattacharjee reportedly promised that subsidy would continue to be allotted to these companies.

Members of the delegation said they made clear their twin concerns to the chief minister ' first, that the objective of social commitment had to be kept and second, the employees' interests had to be protected.

'Closing down these companies is not the solution. It will not prevent the mismanagement inherent in government concerns. The chief minister has asked us to have a detailed discussion with the minister for public enterprises and industrial reconstruction Nirupam Sen on every individual company,' Basu said.

When the delegation raised objections to the proposed downsizing under the second phase, Bhattacharjee reportedly told them that a decision is yet to be taken about these organisations.

'We are exploring all options in our efforts to revive these companies,' he reportedly told them, assuring them that companies that stood a chance of revival would not be closed down.

As for redeployment in cases where employees die in harness, the government has already issued a notification. 'In cases where an employee dies young, we will consider his relatives for employment. But if the employee is aged over 50 or has completed 20 years in service, a consolidated amount would be paid as compensation to the next of kin,' a state government official said.

Bhattacharjee sought to placate the employees' delegation on contractual employment, a thorny issue for the government. 'We cannot accept two employees working in the same office on different terms and conditions and on starkly different salaries. Buddhadeb babu has assured us that no contractual recruitment would be made for permanent posts in the government.

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