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Demanding 15% Wage Hike, Public Insurance Unions to Meet Today

Ronak Chhabra |
The Joint Forum of Unions and Association of Employees & Officers in Public Sector General Insurance Companies (JFTU-PSGIU) will hold a virtual meeting on Thursday evening to decide their future course of action.

Days after rejecting an offer by state-owned multiline non-insurers in the country over long pending wage revision of its staff, the employees' unions and associations in the sector are set to meet on Thursday to decide their future course of action.

The Joint Forum of Unions and Association of Employees & Officers in Public Sector General Insurance Companies (JFTU-PSGIU), a coming together of over 20 employees' bodies in the sector, had earlier last week rejected a 5% wage hike with 2% of arrears. This offer was made by the General Insurers' (Public Sector) Association of India (GIPSA).

GIPSA is the lobby group for the four government-owned multiline non-life insurers – The New India Assurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company, National Insurance Company, and United India Insurance Company – and the General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC).

The wage revision in these public sector companies, which have a total workforce strength of nearly 58,000, was due from August 2017.

The employees' unions and associations will hold a virtual meeting this evening to decide their future course of action, Girish Khurana, national convenor, JFTU-PSGIU told NewsClick on Thursday.

"Last time, after rejecting the proposed wage hike, we had given time to GIPSA till June 30 to revise their offer," Khurana informed.

"No further communication from GIPSA's end has been received as yet. Thus, we will be meeting today to discuss the present situation."

A strike action to press the four public sector non-life insurers for an immediate revision of employees' wages is expected to be on the table and will be discussed on Thursday, Newsclick has learnt.

Asked about it, Khurana contended on Thursday morning that a final decision would only be taken after the meeting. "Regarding the strike action, I cannot say anything more," he said.

Incidentally, an indefinite strike, called by JFTU-PSGIU to demand initiation of the wage revision, was deferred earlier this month after GIPSA agreed to begin active consideration of wage revision after a lapse of 59 months from the due date.

The JFTU-PSGIU is demanding a 15% wage hike along with arrears, similar to what was given to the employees of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) last year.

"It has been a tradition for many years now that general insurance employees are awarded wage hikes on par with those in the life insurance company," Khurana remarked on Thursday.

Meanwhile, support for the general insurance employees and officers has also come from Central Trade Unions in the country, with the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) on Wednesday justifying the decision to reject insurer management's last offer.

Earlier this month, Communist Party of India (CPI) Rajya Sabha MP from Kerala Binoy Viswam also wrote to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, urging her to look into the matter regarding the pending wage revision of public sector general insurance employees at the soonest, according to a report by news agency ANI.

Moreover, uncertainty, affecting business at large, also looms over the whole sector after the announcement of privatisation of one general insurance company was made by FM Sitharaman in her speech while presenting the Budget for FY22 in February last year.

Till now, there is no clarity on which of the general insurers will be identified to be handed over to private hands, even as the country's apex public policy think tank NITI Aayog is said to have recommended United India Insurance for privatisation to a core group of secretaries on disinvestment.

On Thursday, Khurana said that the JFTU-PSGIC has time and again registered its opposition to the idea of privatisation.

"Instead, we are demanding a merger of the four general insurers to rationalise operational costs and address the workforce shortage in individual companies. The merger will also help the new entity to perform better while competing with the private sector companies," he said.

The Centre had earlier considered merging National Insurance, United India Insurance and Oriental India Insurance into a single entity and subsequently listing it on exchanges.

Currently, all four public sector general insurers, including the listed New India Assurance, are in the process of appointing external consultants to prepare road maps to restructure the business and improve performance, Livemint reported in May this year.

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