Bank employees on August 6 staged a pan-India protest against the recently signed agreement of the unions with bank management, as part of its 11th bipartite wage settlement, saying that many of their “legitimate demands” still remain unmet.
Demonstrations were staged during the lunch hours at over 200 bank branches across the country including at state capitals and district headquarters of almost all the 35 lenders – public and private – weeks after a memorandum of understanding over wage revision was signed between the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), representing the bankers, and the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), a coming together of nine workmen unions and officers’ associations.
The protest was led by Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), a sole constituent of the umbrella bank unions body which had abstained last month from entering into the agreement with the bank management.
Condemning the IBA of its “stubborn attitude”, the employees’ body alleged that “the MoU failed to fulfill the aspirations of both working as well as retired employees,” according to a circular issued by it earlier on August 1.
It demands other issues including the merger of special allowance, and five-day banking also to be settled and find a mention in any understanding reached between the bank management and union bodies.
These issues must be solved now only and there must not be any “compromise” in doing so, said Debasish Basu Chaudhary, general secretary, BEFI, who averred the IBA of “taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic” and “signed the MoU in a hurried manner”.
“Today, we are protesting against the attitude of IBA, of not even taking note of our suggestions in the last meeting. It has taken advantage of the prevailing situation in the country and achieved reaching an agreement that leaves out many of our long pending demands,” Chaudhary told NewsClick.
What has been left out of the signed MoU among others was the enhancement of family pension to 30% without any ceiling. Instead, an “in-principle approval” was obtained to achieve the same, as opposed to the demand of BEFI to include it in the agreement to “ensure any meaningful discussions” surrounding it in the coming days. The cap on family pension is currently at Rs 9,000.
On Thursday, the existing staff at the banks were also joined by the retired employees to press for the same, along with the discontinuation of the New Pension Scheme (NPS) altogether – that has been flayed by other government employees as well for leaving pension “at the mercy of the stock market”.
Moreover, non-merger of special allowance with the basic pay, which reportedly could have increased the take-home salary of workers, has also irked BEFI.
Apart from it, the four officers unions also urged the Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Union Ministry of Finance, through a letter dated August 3, drawing attention to the long pending demand of the bank employees’ of introducing five-day working week in banks. Presently, bank branches remain closed on alternate Saturdays (which translates to two of them every month).
“During the discussions held with the then Secretary, DFS, on 5 day week, it was categorically assured that the demand would be actively considered. Even if all Saturdays off at that point of time could not be introduced, an additional Saturday off could well be worked out. To date, there is no positive response in this regard,” the letter had stated, while speaking about discussions held last year in the backdrop of a two-day strike call then jointly given by the officers’ union.
Signed on July 22 after holding talks for close to three calendar years, the MoU will be converted into a formal wage agreement, for a five year period, within the next 90 days. The wage revision, thus achieved, will be effective from November 1, 2017.
In a first of its kind, a performance-linked incentive (PLI) has been introduced as part of the salary structure of the public sector bank employees, along with an annual increase of 15% of the wage bill in salary and allowances.
The PLI – introduced to “inculcate a sense of competition and also to reward the performance”, as per the signed MoU – has been opposed by BEFI for “departing” from the past practices of having an industry-wide wage pact, Chaudhary informed NewsClick.
A series of protests, led by all the bank unions, in the coming days will put pressure on the bank management in considering our demands, he added.
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