New Delhi: State-owned telecom service provider BSNL or Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited is likely to sack as many as 54,000 of its employees soon, according to a report in the Deccan Herald.

The board of the company is believed to have given the go-ahead and a final decision will be taken after the Lok Sabha elections are held.

The Deccan Herald report quoted a source, “Announcing the VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) package or job cuts and shutting down businesses of the telecom firm would have huge implications on employees and ongoing elections. DoT decided to wait and watch.”

The report also stated that the proposed job cuts at BSNL represent about 31 per cent of its 174,312 ageing workforce. The board has also okayed the recommendation to reduce the retirement age from 60 to 58 years and to give Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) to all employees aged 50 and above, in addition to expediting the allocation of 4G spectrum to to BSNL.

The proposed retirement scheme will help BSNL to save a total of Rs 13,895 crore over the next six years on the wage bill. (The average age of BSNL employees is 55 years.)

BSNL has been incurring losses consecutively over the past five years or so. It reported a loss of around Rs 8,000 crores for FY18, compared to Rs 4,786 crore in FY17. For FY19 also, the loss is expected to be higher than Rs 8,000 crores.

At least 1.76 lakh employees of BSNL were earlier reported to have not been given their salary for the month of February.

The employees had also written to Telecom minister Manoj Sinha asking the government to release funds to the company so that they are paid their salaries and the company is revived.

BSNL’s 55 per cent revenue goes toward payment of wages and the company’s wage bill reportedly increases by 8 per cent annually but the revenues are stagnant.

The financial crisis being faced by the telecom operator is being attributed to the pricing of Reliance Jio. A letter by All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) read, “Financial crisis is being faced by other operators also but they are managing the situation by infusing huge amounts.”