Social Classes and Human Resource Exploitation in Telecom Industry

MemeBy Muhammad Mohsin Cheema

Being part of telecom industry in Pakistan, if it is believed that we are living in the modern world and “enlightened moderate “ society with equity and poised professional rights, then think again because you are probably far from ground reality.

Our neighbour country has social class system for centuries which has inspired telecom sector by a great deal as it is adopted by telecom sector of Pakistan as it is. Same as in Hindu social system, in telecom sector we have Operator, vendor & sub-contractor with its counter parts as Brahmins, Kshatriyas & Shudras respectively.

Operator class “the priests and elites” are believed to be the owner of everything and considered to have every right to do anything and everything without even considering much about the moral values at times.

Some of the people from this class are so much obsessed with this fact that they don’t even consider realistic ground realities for the evaluation of certain tasks and penalize the “Culprits”.

Now culprits are broadly divided in to two categories which are obviously our other classes. First of them is Vendor “so called warriors”, are supposed to know every art of war, tactic, strategy and plan to convince “the priests “. They must and should know everything about everything whenever asked by “the elites”. This class offers a bit of flexibility for redemption by taking the shelter of operator or sub-con in case of any hazard depending on the situation.

The other culprit class is sub-con which may be referred as labourers, artisans, purer individuals by lower or simply waste cleaners. This class must abide whatever and whenever is asked or told by the other two classes without the distinction of time, nature of work or any hazard what so ever involved. Every other class must admonish them sarcastically whenever possible to remind them who they are and what their obligations to their masters are. This class soon ends up having no self-respect, compromised credibility, lower self-esteem and under performance issues.

Brief comparison must be presented for the school of thoughts being followed by the leading operators in the country which are “Quality and cost”. The approach is quite simple “compromise one for the other”. Mobilink, leading operator in terms of customers has recently chosen Ericsson as its vendor. Ericsson is considered to be one of the best and stable vendors worldwide in terms of Quality and a decent employer as well. So the message is clear that Quality won’t be compromised for cost and certain level of benchmark for employees will be maintained for better efficiency of the human resource.

Telenor Pakistan being the second in line in terms of customers has opted for ZTE as its vendor. ZTE offers its services relatively lower in cost compared to some of its counter parts. This approach reflects operational, maintenance and equipment cost saving with some leverage for quality compromise quite evidently. Generally In cost saving model, Human resource falls as cost saving “Commodities” along with other O&M cost saving parameters.

Often questions are raised for the under-achieved network throughput to its optimum capabilities and so many points are made but most importantly social class factor along with human resource exploitation are ignored all together for unknown reasons. This class system creates a great deal of communication gap among the operator, vendor & sub-con teams.

Furthermore most exploited working class Sub-cons, are asked to do so many things and are expected to work round the clock 24/7 which is impossible if evaluated in terms of available resources to them and time lines for completion of tasks, no rosters or shifts are observed for operational activities as well.

Salaries of this working class including engineers are ignominiously low even compared to the clerical staff or other appointments in government where selection criteria is 12th grade or below. Not to mention medical and other basic benefits are far from sight, no personal or family life for field teams what so ever.

So much emphasis have been made on HSE in general but it is not more than a thought or a dream for these teams. This clearly shows that most of the people working in this class are not there by choice and yet they are the ones who are show-runners, working day and night without much bothering about terrain and weather some of them even lost their lives in the line of duty.

It is an open secret that we cannot appreciate the efforts unless we don’t empathize with the ones in that situation. Efforts should be made and managerial policies must be devised by the ruling elites of this sector, for effective use of human resources by rosters scheduling, revised salaries and provisioning of basic facilities for operational activities in order to get the required network KPIs along with thriving and motivated operational work force.

Writer is currently a field operations manager at an infrastructure vendor operating in Pakistan.

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  • telecom was among my considerations as a major for FYP……but now changed. Seems that Telecom Engineers are not much entertained at least not in Pakistan.

  • A good initiative, I think more whistle-blowers should come in writings from every sector.
    Mohsin, you should also include CSRs, TSRs, lower level technicians etc from telecom sector in you next piece.

  • Exquisitely articulated with great depth. Resource Exploitation is rampant in telecom industry & Mr. Mohsin Cheema has been bold enough to speak on this front.

  • Nice One Mohsin…. I totally agree with you. I working in Pakistani Telco (Vendor side, Nortel, Eltek, & currently in MTA) since 2005. I 2nd your thoughts :)

    • Its probably true but i presented the perspective of industry that i am working at.

  • I would love to talk to Mohsin. Nothing is going to be changed as such but at least he gave us food for thought.

  • The problem is not with industry its from our own pplz
    jab koi cheez boom hasil krti han ham os cheez pe lapakty han paglon ki tra, yahe hal telecom sector k hwa ha. Best thing is market research main khud Computer engineer hon aur ALLAH k lakh lakh shukar ha main ik din bhe farig nahi raha aur passout hoty he job pr hon na tu mere C.G.P koi highfy ha na kuch shefarish bs certificates k zarya jobs mil gye

  • i pass through the same stages, showing true and horrible face of telecom sector in Pakistan, excellent piece of writing

  • Interesting comparison and more interesting are the comments. Although these relationships have similar dynamics elsewhere too. But the industry cannot be blamed for this situation. Other industries including footwear retail and FMCG distribution, milk collection etc have the very same dynamic. At the end of the day its the people that make this relationship better or worse, it is completely unfair to blame an industry that pays the highest in taxes and provides direct and indirect livelihoods to hundreds and thousands. And to say ZTE has poor quality just because its cheap is also too much of a generalization, mind you ZTE and Huwaei are making headway all over the world.
    At the end the class system , well like it or not its part and parcel of who we are as people , look around and you will know what i mean. We do love to complain and criticize but we will not stop at a traffic light , we will never give way while driving , we will never like to stand in a queue , i can go on and on here but seriously the problem is with us as people , it is us who need to shed the class system as a society and more importantly try to be one of the civilized ones.

  • If we talk about Telenor only then I tend to agree to Mohsin because most of this exploitation came after one wrong decision of ZTE selection and now to overcome that complete organization is suffering. I work in same industry and the frustration Telenor people are facing since early 2013 was never a part of Telenor culture.
    Mohsin has taken bold view and we all shall stay ready for more……

  • 100% agreed, but do you think this ruling elite will empower the engineers and so called HSE standards by leading operators like Telenor…

  • Very right dear mohsin. thos is exactly the telecom sector in pakistan. when mobilink says. pura signal pura pakistan, the credit goes to the subcon and its team who are working in field, remote, nungles and hilltops 24/7 yet on eid days they are on duty. the full harrassment, threats and HR exploitation can be seen by anyone in telecom sector by the PRIESTS and the foriegner vendors like mobiserve, zte, eptsc, huawei etc

  • I am still wandering whether some actions will be taken by respective Telecos or not because their claims are contradictory to the reality. People are being pushed very hard to overcome the mistakes of top management. Mobilink was bold enough to accept and followed their strategy of reducing Headcount but Telenor is using line function and compliance as tool for achieving the same goal. Relative performance review is BIG mistake and drama where any individual can victimized because of his challenging attitude towards.

  • interesting but I don’t think Telenor employees have the courage due to job insecuirty to standby Mohsin and write here more openly…on the other hand the most common topic of discussion in cafe, smoking corners etc is the same that “Shoaib Baig & CTO” are pain in ass and they have destroyed the most open and friendly enviorment and culture in Pakistan….

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