On September 23, the four national bank officers’ union issued a joint circular declaring that the 48 hours long strike – from the midnight of September 25 to the midnight of September 27 – has been deferred. The decision came post meeting of the delegation of the four officers’ organisation and the Finance Secretary.
A committee will now be formed comprising all the stakeholders to address the issues arising out of the proposed merger of 10 banks, the circular added.
This is the second time, in less than a month, that formation of a committee has been ‘assured’ by the Modi government in response to the nationwide protests of the workers. The first decision came on August 24, after a month-long strike [which was called off after for six days], when the defence civilian employees were assured that the concerns expressed by the employee federations regarding the corporatisation of the 41 Ordnance Factories will be examined by a ‘high-level official committee’. A similar worded commitment have now been made to the national bank officers’ unions ahead of their strike against the merger of 10 public sector banks. However, as observed in the case of the defence civilian employees, even after a month, no committee has yet been formed as a result of which employees are set to launch the second phase of anti-corporatisation agitation.
NewsClick spoke to Nagarajan S, general secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA), one of the officers’ union which had called for the strike, to understand the unions’ perspective on the effectiveness of such committees.
“The decision has been taken considering that the Modi government has shown interest in initiating a dialogue regarding the amalgamation of the public sector banks,” he said, adding that, in case of no positive response in the coming months, “an indefinite strike will be launched by all the bank officers’ union in the second week of November.”
The decision to merge banks is “anti-people” and will hinder the development of the Indian banking infrastructure considering it will lead to closure of numerous bank branches, Nagarajan added.
In addition to the strong opposition to the Modi government's decision to merge the banks, the bank officers’ unions also raised issues regarding the ongoing wage revision talks with the Indian Banking Association (IBA) and the service condition of the banking workforce.
Meanwhile, well over 3.5 lakh bank employees are set to observe a one-day strike on October 22 under the banner of All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) – also the largest bank union in the country – and Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI). Leaders of both the workmen’s fronts, while speaking to NewsClick, have reiterated their disapproval to the biggest bank consolidation plan of the Modi government.
Responding to the formation of a committee to address the issues regarding the merger, AIBEA Vice President J. P. Sharma believes that no positive solution will come out of it.
“This is a policy decision and not some HR issue which will be resolved by formation of the committee,” he said, adding that the government should be forced to revisit its decision of merging public sector banks.
Debasish Basu Chaudhary, General Secretary of BEFI, conveyed similar opinions saying that formation of such a committee will only lead to discussions concerning the after effects of the merger of the public banks.
On August 30, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced amalgamation of 10 public sector banks into four big banks. After the mergers, the total number of public sector banks in the country will come down from 27 in 2017 to 12.
The move had triggered massive protest from the banking workforce with United Forum of Bank Unions, an umbrella body of all the nine largest bank unions, launching countrywide protest on August 31.