Monday, November 11, 2019

BSNL VRS 2019 - Issue of Future Benefits



                                

 BSNL VRS 2019 - Issue of Future Benefits


The BSNL VRS Scheme dt 4-11-2019 assures Terminal benefits as per the following para.

6.2 Terminal Benefits
"In addition to the lump sum compensation or the amount of exgratia as per clause 6.1 of the scheme, the employee voluntarily retiring under the scheme shall be entitled to terminal and other benefits as applicable to the said employee under existing rules. The payment of such benefits shall be made in the following manner:

6.2 a. Pension/ Family Pension: The employee retiring under the scheme shall be entitled to Pension/ FP, as applicable w.e.f the date following the effective date of VR and shall be authorised as per existing procedure"

 Here the 'Existing Procedure"  is not defined in 'Para 3. Definitions' .  'Existing Rules' is defined as per 3 h " means BSNL Rules in force as on the date of notification of the scheme or GOI Rules as applicable to BSNL Employee. Here also 'absorbed employee' is missing.  The other missing point is ‘entitled to Pension/ FP, as applicable that of 37 A'  (as per provisions of 37 A).

8. General Conditions:
"viii The benefits payable under this scheme  shall be in full and final settlement of all claims of whatsoever nature, whether arising under the scheme or otherwise"
"ix) An employee who voluntarily retires under this scheme or his/ her family or legal heirs shall have no claim or compensation except the benefits under the scheme"

para 8 viii needs  elucidation since it speaks 'the benefits' ( that is including terminal benefits) as full and final whether coming out of the scheme or otherwise. The question is whether VRS optees , as absorbed employees as per 37A conditions are going get their pension fixation as per any of the sub rule of 37 A ( SR 8 etc)
or
  as per 6.2.a  “entitled  to pension/FP as applicable w.e.f  the date  following the effective date of VR and shall be authorised as per exiting procedure"

Even 37 A is not having any provision for pension revision but 'pensioners of pre 2007' who got their pension fixation as per 37 A got 'pension revision' on account of wage revision of 2007.

 If 8 viii concludes the benefit of fixation of pension as full and final as per the procedure of 50 % of  last  pay drawn, and if any revision of pension for pre 2017 pensioners on account of pay revision either notionally or actually from 1-1-2017 then applicability of the benefits to VRS optees become questionable, because as there is no change in the last pay drawn, So we need clarification from DOT.

The second point in this regard is whether these VRS optees would get pension revision if any wage revision comes with prospective effect that is either from 1-2-2020 or after. These pensioners also become old pensioners like that of 'pre 2017' pensioners. If the pension fixed by this scheme is treated as full and final, then this becomes a problematic issue.

The silence on the part of DOT and not mentioning 37 A in their OM is adding more apprehensions. The said DOT Om dt 29-10-19 communicating the cabinet approval of Revival plan is speaking only about exgratia  eligibility amount linking that with admissible pension for the remaining period of service and it communicates the approval for postponing commutation as well Gratuity.

As per PIB release dt 23-10-2019
“3. BSNL and MTNL will also offer Voluntary Retirement to their employees, aged 50 years and above through attractive Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), the cost of which will be borne by the Government of India through budgetary support. The ex-gratia component of VRS will require Rs. 17,169 Cr in addition, GoI will be meeting the cost towards Pension, Gratuity and Commutation. Details of the scheme will be finalised by BSNL/MTNL.”

But DOT Om dt 29-10-19 limits its liability with preponed pensionary period only. The para
"2.iii  The payment of ex gratia on VRS (17169 cr) and Preponed pensionary liability ( Rs 12768 cr spread over a period of ten years) is to be supported through budgetary allocation of GOI"

DPE guidelines on VRS dt 20th July, 2018:
9 ii Arrears of wages due to revision etc will not be included in computing the eligible amount

9 v. The compensation under VRS/VSS will be in addition to terminal benefits.
In these paras ‘the eligible amount’, ‘compensation’ both are denoting the Exgratia amount. But this DPE Om is silent about the eligibility of wage revision or pension revision for the VRS optees .

BSNL FAQ dt 7-11-19

Question 4   when pension will start?
Full pension will start w.e.f 1-2-2020 till the time of commutation option is exercised.
Here no mention of 37 A. But  Sr 9 of 37 A only giving this calculation. The following are very important rules of 37 A - Conditions for payment of pension on absorption. Whether the terminal benefit of pension as per the VRS scheme takes the following or not is an important question that needs clarification

 Sr  (8) A permanent Government servant who has been absorbed as an employee of a Public Sector Undertaking and his family shall be eligible for pensionary benefits (including commutation of pension, gratuity, family pension or extra-ordinary pension), on the basis of combined service rendered by the employee in the government and in the Public Sector Undertaking in accordance with the formula for calculation of such pensionary benefits as may be in force at the time of his retirement from the Public Sector  Undertaking or his death or at his option, to receive benefits for the service rendered under the Central Government in accordance with the orders issued by the Central Government.
"Explanation:- The amount of pension or family pension in respect of the absorbed employee on retirement from the Public Sector Undertaking or on death shall be calculated in the same way as calculated in the case of a Central Government servant retiring or dying, on the same day".

(9) The pension of an employee under sub-rule (8) shall be calculated on fifty percent of emoluments or average emoluments, whichever is more beneficial to him.

(10) In addition to pension or family pension, as the case may be, the employee who opts for pension on the basis of combined service shall also be eligible to dearness relief as per industrial Dearness Allowance pattern.

Sr 22 guarantees pension from Govt
(22) Nothing contained in sub-rules (13) to (21) shall apply in the case of conversion of the Departments of Telecom Services and Telecom Operations into Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, in which case the pensionary benefits including family pension shall be paid by the Government.

FAQ 13 speaks about eligibility of CGHs for VRS optees covered under rule 37A.  The absorbed covered under 37 A should get all aspects of pension as per the SR of 37 A.
FAQ 3 is again troubling- it is defining 8 ix  in BSNL VRS scheme
(8 ix An employee who Voluntarily retires under this scheme or his/ her family or leagal heirs shall have no claim or compensation except the benefits under the scheme)

The reply given is "No claim after 31-1-2020 shall be paid except as provided in this scheme"
 Unfortunately the term ‘Claim’ is not defined

We need to get some assurance in plain terms from DOT beyond ambiguity about the applicability of all the relevant rules of 37 A  to BSNL absorbed employees should be applicable for the VRS optees also and there should not be any differential footing amongst the BSNL IDA Pensioners when the question of pension revision comes if at all any day in future.

12-11-19  00.30  hrs

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