State-owned telephone operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited on Wednesday said it will use its internal accruals to clear salary dues of around Rs 850 crore by March 20, PTI reported. The company, which has around 1.76 lakh employees, failed to pay them salaries for the last month.

BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava said the company expects internal accruals of around Rs 850 crore in this month and the amount will be used to disburse of salaries. “There will be no pending amount following this disbursal,” he said. The company has informed its employee representatives that the disbursal will be made by March 20.

BSNL spokesperson Sanjay Kumar Sinha said the salaries of employees in Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala and BSNL Corporate office, excluding senior officers and board members, have already been released.

BSNL employees’ union had earlier written to telecom minister Manoj Sinha, The Financial Express reported. They had requested the government to release funds to the company to pay the salaries. The employees have also been organising protests.

BSNL’s associations and unions claim that the telecom industry’s financial health has suffered due to the predatory pricing of Reliance Jio. “Financial crisis is being faced by other operators also, but they are managing the situation by infusing huge amounts,” the All Unions and Associations of BSNL said in a letter to Sinha.

Salaries at MTNL affected as well

Another telecom public sector unit Mahanagar Telephone Nagar Limited had also failed to pay its employees their February salaries. But the government on Tuesday released pending dues of Rs 171 crore for the company, said an unidentified official of the Department of Telecom. MTNL has close to 22,000 employees.

Employees have also reportedly been receiving delayed salaries over the last few months. “Generally, we get our salary credited by the end of the month,” MTNL Executives’ Association President JJ Mathias told The Hindu. “The December salary was credited on January 5, 2019, the January salary was credited on February 21, and we are yet to receive our salaries for February.”

However, MTNL Chief Executive Officer Pravin Kumar Purwar said there was no cause for concern. “We have already ordered to make the payment of salaries on March 14,” he said. “So there are no issues as far as MTNL is concerned. I am making payment for electricity bills and all statutory payments in time.”

Both companies have approached the government for relief and partial equity investment in line with industry practice to compete in the market. They have sought permission to monetise their land assets as well as support for voluntary retirement scheme for their employees.