Kerala: Gramin Bank Employees, Officers Strike Work, Demand Adequate Recruitment and Regularisation
Employees and Officers of KGB holding a dharna in front of Kannur regional office as part of the strike (Courtesy: BEFI Kannur)
The Kerala Gramin Bank Employees Union (KGBEU) and Kerala Gramin Bank Officers Union (KGBOU) resorted to a one-day strike on December 2 on a charter of demands. The associations accused the management of the only Regional Rural Bank (RRB) in the state, the Kerala Gramin Bank (KGB) of going back on promises ensured during the previous agitation programs, refusing to appoint staff as per Mitra committee recommendations and setting unscientific accountability for the bankers.
The demand for regularising the daily wage workers in the bank, withdrawal of action refusing benefits to 29 Office Assistants (OA) in the branches, aborting the appointment of Business Correspondents (BC) and withdrawing the appointment of recovery agents were also raised.
The employees and officers took out marches and held dharnas in front of all the regional offices of the KGB across the state.
‘GOING BACK ON PROMISES’
The KGB was formed on July 8, 2013, following the merger of South Malabar Gramin Bank and North Malabar Gramin Bank. The bank has 630 branches, making it the second largest bank in the state, employing more than 3,500 people in different categories.
With the management failing to provide permanent jobs to the daily wage workers employed in the bank for the past several years, the employees' and officers' unions resorted to the one-day strike after sustained struggles since 2018.
Speaking to NewsClick, Rajeevan C, the national president of the All India Regional Rural Bank Employees Association (AIRRBEA), accused the management of failing to consider even the basic demands of the unions. “During 2016, the regular employees resorted to a 10-day strike and 16 days hunger strike demanding permanent jobs for the temporary workers. This remains one of the glorious strikes in the history of the RRBs,” he said.
The recent strike was called for after massive dharnas of the unions in November this year.
The state government, led by the Left Democratic Front (LDF), though with a minor share of 15%, intervened effectively to end the strike. The union government has a 50% share, and Canara Bank, the sponsor bank, has a 35% share in KGB. “Two ministers of Kerala and the Chairman of the KGB participated in the talks held then, and the management promised to provide priority to the temporary workers for the 329 vacancies in the OA category as per the 2016 estimate. But later, after a meeting of the director board to reassess the vacancies, they claimed that there was zero vacancy in the category,” Rajeevan said.
The floods in the state for two consecutive years in 2018 and 2019, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the protest programs of the unions.
‘MANAGEMENT TRUNCATING VACANCIES’
The other major demand of the unions was the failure of the management in estimating the actual vacancies in different cadres and adequate recruitment for the same. The government of India has instructed the S K Mitra Committee recommendations on HR policies, which include the recruitment of staff in branches as per the business.
“During the previous agitation programs, the management agreed to estimate the vacancies as per the Mitra Committee recommendations. As of now, considering the business volume, there should be more than 2,500 vacancies. But to the shock of stakeholders, the management has estimated only 650 vacancies,” Rajeevan added.
Three other unions in the bank continued to support the demands of the KGBEU and KGBOU but refrained from participating in the strike.
The unions have also demanded the management extend the leave and medical benefits to 29 OAs appointed 13 years ago in the erstwhile South Malabar Gramin Bank, who have won a verdict from the high court. The workers are working without annual increments, and any leave benefits entitled to the regular employees.
“These 29 workers, after 13 years of service, are drawing only the basic salary. They are not entitled to medical or earned leaves as well. The management has approached the division bench of the high court after the single bench pronounced the verdict in favour of the workers,” Rajeevan said.
The unions have also opposed the engagement of BC under the guise of doorstep banking since the density of banks in the state is very high, and the possibility of outsourcing increases.
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