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Thursday, Nov 13, 2003

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CESC VRS: `Early bird scheme evokes good response'

Indrani Dutta

The smooth sailing of the CESC VRS would boost Bengal's image as an investor-friendly destination.

Kolkata , Nov. 12

AN early bird scheme, which enhances payment by Rs 25,000, has resulted in a huge response to the voluntary retirement scheme at CESC which opened on November 1, 2003.

A company source said that within the space of a little over a week, nearly 25 per cent of the target has been fulfilled.

Enquiries revealed that a Rs 25,000 extra payment promised to employees who apply before November 19 is the real trigger behind what is being described, even by the unions, as an unexpected response.

The communication to employees was made through an internal circular soon after the VRS announcement. It said that over and above the ceiling of Rs 5 lakh fixed as the golden handshake package, employees applying after November 27 would get additional payment of Rs 20,000. The scheme closes on November 30, and there is no withdrawal clause.

Even as the CESC bosses are barely able to conceal their glee, there is a bigger gain for the State in this entire process. Industry watchers said that smooth sailing of the CESC VRS proposal would boost the State's image as an investor-friendly destination because it would be seen as the success of a big company in shedding nearly a third of its workforce with the blessings of political bosses as also the CITU union which holds sway over the workers.

The CESC proposal, which sought to reduce its 12,800 strong unionised workforce by 4,372, was billed as being among the largest of its kind in West Bengal.

Says Mr Rathin Sen of the CITU-affilated CESC Workmen's Union: "We do not believe in militant trade unionism especially in an essential sector like power which is now being opened up to competition with enactments like Electricity Act 2003."

He added that CESC had never had any work disruption barring a three-day strike in the Emergency period over wage revision.

In a scenario like this the union consulted its leadership in New Delhi and went into a huddle with the other unions at CESC (affiliated to AITUC and TMC) to "improve the package".

According to Mr Sen, employees will be paid interest at the rate of 10.5 per cent on the arrear payment (which will be cleared within 15 months in three instalments). Employees will also get some medical benefits for themselves and their family members for five years after their early retirement.

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