United Telecom Limited (UTL) has finally decided to obtain a unified licence from the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) so that it can operate all types of telecom services including GSM and landline, the company said Tuesday.
A board meeting held on Monday agreed to go for the permit which had been okayed by the NTA 20 months ago but which UTL had been putting off acquiring. Company Secretary Suyash Pradhan said that UTL had decided to get the licence at the earliest. “We have written to the NTA informing it about our decision,” he added.
The NTA had been considering setting a deadline for UTL to obtain the licence as it had been stalling. Pradhan said the company had applied to the Department of Industry to expand its capital and staff strength as per its plan to acquire the unified licence. On October 9, 2014, UTL had written to the Department of Industry seeking its go-ahead to add 20 administrative and 40 technical persons to its staff and increase its investment.
Meanwhile, the UTL board has decided to implement its earlier decision to lay off 60 percent of the employees. The company currently employs 106 persons. It has outsourced security and customer care services.
Pradhan said that the company was forced to downsize as it had been operating in the red for the last three years. According to UTL, its cumulative losses had swelled to Rs 3.25 billion as of the last fiscal year while its losses during the last fiscal year amounted to Rs 790 million.
On September 30, 2014, the UTL management had filed an application at the Ministry of Labour and Employment to downsize.
“As per the employee-to-customer base ratio, the number of employees should be reduced by 60 percent,” the company said.
Meanwhile, agitating UTL employees have questioned the company’s contradictory plan to downsize even as it has applied to the Department of Industry to enlarge its workforce.
“We are excited by the news that UTL will be acquiring the unified licence as it means that our future will be brighter,” said Bikash Kumar Jha, president of the UTL chapter of the All Nepal Workers Union for Organisations and Financial Institutions.
“But we are surprised that the company wants to lay off the current employees while it has written to the Department of Industry that it will be hiring more people.”
The UTL management said that it was planning to limit its entire workforce to 120 persons including its own staff and outsourced human resources as it streamlines after receiving the unified licence.
“We had to pledge to hire additional staff in our present application to the department as our staff strength was stated as being only 60 when we got the pre-approval to run CDMA services,” said Pradhan. “However, the actual number is higher.”
Earlier during the Dashain festival, UTL had introduced a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), but there were no takers.
Union leader Jha said that the VRS offer was not attractive as retiring staff would get just Rs 100,000 as a severance package.
He added that most of the employees were not interested in quitting, and that they were determined to fight to the death to keep their jobs.