New Delhi: Four national bank officers’ unions have given the call for a 48-hour -long strike starting from the midnight of September 25 to the midnight of September 27, against the central government’s recent decision to merge public sector banks (PSBs). The unions, namely All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC), All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA), India National Bank Officers’ Congress (INBOC), and National Organization of Bank Officers (NOBO) have also announced that they will go on an indefinite strike from the second week of November 2019.
Apart from expressing their opposition to the mergers and amalgamation of PSBs, the unions have demanded that there be an expeditious wage revision as per their charter of demands with an unconditional and clear mandate from all banks, immediate introduction of five-day work week, reduction of cash transaction hours and regulation of working hours.
Their other demands include halting of undue interference in the procedure of vigilance cases by outside agencies under the provisions of amended Section 17(A) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2018, settlement of issues pertaining to retirees--updation of pension as per the Reserve Bank of India formula/revision of family without any ceiling, quantum and percentage, and medical insurance at par with serving employees. The unions have also demanded that adequate recruitment be made across PSBs, reduction of service charges for customers, and harassment of officers under the specious plea of non-performance be stopped.
The four unions sent a strike notice to the chairman of Indian Banks' Association (IBA) on September 12, in which they listed out their demands and concerns. The notice said, “We strongly oppose and protest the government’s move of merger/consolidation of public sector banks, which was announced on August 30, 2019. In the name of consolidation, the number of banks are being reduced. The advantages have been misquoted. Just adding two balance sheets will not make the resultant balance sheet stronger.”
They have said that across the world, bank mergers have never been a success. According to the officers, mergers and amalgamations create huge organisations that are too big to manage, and have a detrimental effect on the economy as a whole. The unions pointed out that mergers lead to closing of branches, which was seen when associate banks were merged with the State Bank of India. “In the name of rationalisation and right-sizing of human resources, voluntary retirement is offered, which is nothing but instigated termination of services and loss of employment to millions who are directly or indirectly connected with the public sector banks,” the notice said.
According to the notice, mergers and amalgamations also create humongous pressure on officers and staff continuing in service, as they have to manage the work-load of the employees who opt for voluntary retirement. The notice said, “These mergers will have a cascading effect on customer services and deprive banking facilities to the common and needy populace.”
The officers’ unions have also said that mergers and amalgamations of banks monopolise the banking environment in the country. As a result, the customers face a plethora of difficulties like rise in service charges and fees, fewer banks, fewer products, and downgraded customer service.
According to the unions, customers are already struggling with the hike in service charges. They said, “Post-computerisation, with expanding customer base and increasing business volume, it was expected that the banking services would become more affordable. On the contrary, the service charges imposed on the customers for various services, including non-maintenance of minimum balances, ATM transactions, etc., have sky-rocketed. Common man of the country is put to inconvenience. Banks are now being looked as profit-mongering and injudicious in recovering hundreds of crores as minimum balance charges etc.”
Bankers have been protesting continuously for last one year, however, the government has not paid any heed to their demands.