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Kerala Grama Bank Employees Gearup for Strike, Hold Protest on Charter of Demands

The AIRRBEA has been demanding the formation of NRBI, bringing together the RRBs across the country, citing the attitude of the sponsor banks towards the development of the banks.
KS Sunil Kumar, state secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, inaugurated the protest of the KGB Employees Association.

KS Sunil Kumar, state secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, inaugurated the protest of the KGB Employees Association.

The employees and officers of the Kerala Grama Bank (KGB), the only Regional Rural Banks (RRB) in Kerala, held a dharna in front of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) office in Thiruvananthapuram on February 15 on a charter of demands, including the formation of the National Rural Bank of India (NRBI) and relieve the RRBs from the clutches of the sponsor banks.

The protest by the KGB Employees Union, KGB Officers Union and the KGB Retirees Forum urged the bank management to conduct adequate recruitment in all the RRBs across the country, regularise the daily wage workers employed for more than 20 years and ensure pension parity.

The unions affiliated with the All India Regional Rural Bank Employees Association (AIRRBEA) urged the union government to ensure a representation of the RRB unions in wage negotiation talks with the Indian Banks Association (IBA), considering the independent functioning and the strength of the union.

The protest was held as part of a national-level agitation called by the AIRREA, which is set to be followed by a one-day national strike on February 23 and a two-day strike on March 23 and 24. Meanwhile, the union leaders are meeting people's representatives to raise their voices in appropriate forums regarding the long-pending demands.


The principal demand put forward by the RRB employees is the formation of a new apex body to bring all the rural banks across the country under one roof and form NRBI. While states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala have only one RRB, many states, including Karnataka, have multiple such banks. The AIRRBEA has been demanding the merger of multiple such banks.

Speaking to NewsClick, Bigesh Unniyan, the general secretary of the KGB Employees union, said, "The primary stumbling block for the slow-paced growth of the RRBs is the sponsor banks themselves. To overcome such problems, the NRBI must be formed to incorporate all the RRBs."

The RRB unions across the country have been advocating the formation of a National level bank to end the conflict between the sponsor banks and the RRBs. The KGB unions held a one-day strike on December 2 on similar demands. The protesting members of the unions submitted their charter of demands to the officials of the RBI, NABARD and the Canara Bank.

The AIRRBEA has urged the inclusion of the bank representatives in the bipartite talks for wage revision being held between IBA and the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), which has nine member organisations.

"The AIRRBEA is an independent association with one of the largest membership of around 70,000, but the voice of the RRB employees is absent in the wage revision talks. We demand the concerned authorities to accommodate our organisation in the talks", said Bigesh.


The national-level agitation was called by the AIRRBEA, demanding that the temporary workers employed by the bank across the country be regularised and that the bank immediately carry out adequate recruitment without hiding the existing vacancies.

"There are around 28,000 peon posts in all RRBs across the country, but there are only 5,000 regular employees in this category. The bank has been using temporary employees in this category for the past several years. Out of the 1,25,000 posts in the banks, only 98,000 are employed now," Bigesh said.

The union has accused the management of roping in business correspondents to carry out banking transactions, affecting both the growth of the bank and the service rendered to the customers.

The issue of compassionate ground appointment is also being raised by the association. The process of compassionate appointment was reinstated by the commercial banks in 2014, with a retrospective effect after being withdrawn in 2008.

"But the same was reintroduced in the RRBs in 2019 with a retrospective effect for five years. However, those members of the family of the staff who lost their lives between 2008 and 2013 are deprived of the right to employment. This has to be addressed by the bank," Bigesh urged.

Other demands are revising the promotion rules and amending service and leave rules to ensure the work-life balance of the employees.

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