People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 17, 2013


Twelve Lakh Bank Employees & Officers to Join

Historic General Strike on Feb 20-21


C P Krishnan


UNITED Forum of Bank Unions unanimously decided in its meeting held in Mumbai on January 31, 2013 to join the 48 hours strike on February 20-21, 2013 called by the eleven central trade unions on ten point charter of demands.  A notice for the strike was served on Indian Banks Association and the Government of India on February 2, 2013 which not only supported the issues raised by the central trade unions but also included demands of banking industry and its employees like stopping of banking reforms, stopping of outsourcing, demanding early wage revision and settlement of pending issues.


Originally BEFI and AIBEA were the only two organisations which endorsed the call of the central trade unions by actively participating in the convention held at Delhi on September 4, 2012.  Subsequently the UFBU, the umbrella organisation consisting of five workmen unions viz, BEFI, AIBEA, NCBE, INBEF, NOBW and four officers unions viz, AIBOC, AIBOA, INBOC, NOBO representing 98 per cent of the workmen and the officers welcomed the call of the central trade unions in its meeting held on September 28, 2012 at Chennai.  The consistent efforts of the leaders of the central trade unions and that of the unions which earlier endorsed the call made this decision of the UFBU joining the strike possible.


With the call of the UFBU, the strike will be total in the banking industry.  Twelve lakh employees and officers working in nearly one lakh bank branches of the public sector, private sector, regional rural and co-operative banks will observe 48 hours strike on February 20-21, 2013. The strike will be total in Reserve Bank of India also with the joint call of the workmen unions to participate in the two days’ strike. The issues raised by the central trade unions are fundamental in nature and have direct bearing on the banking industry and the employees as well.


The UPA-2 government at the centre is attempting to convert the mass banking character of the public sector banks into class banking.  The priority sector lending is diluted.  The financial inclusion only remains an empty rhetoric with practically no credit available to the crores of common man. The finance minister is bent upon merging public sector banks to facilitate large borrowers who are responsible for more than 50 per cent of the accumulated non performing assets (bad debts).  Corporates are given a red carpet welcome by the government to open new banks, despite strong dissent from the Reserve Bank of India.  When the banks were in the control of corporate houses they were predominantly serving only the interest of their own family business and that was an important reason according to the then Congress government led by Indira Gandhi why 14 large private banks were nationalised in the year 1969.  Now the UPA-2 government led by the same Congress Party attempts to reverse its own earlier policy and push the wheels of the history 43 years back.


Lakhs of permanent and perennial nature of jobs are outsourced in the banking industry.  Today jobs like cleaning the premises, security of the branch/ATMs, cash transit, filling up of cash in ATMs, cheques movement from branches to service branches, signature capture in the computers etc, which have all along been performed by the bank employees have been outsourced. Banks have engaged several thousands of business correspondents through private agencies who for a paltry sum of Rs 1000 to Rs 3000 per month are forced to perform all the jobs of the regular employees.  Thousands of bank branches are without a single permanent subordinate staff. This policy of the banks has not only endangered the safety and security of the banks and their clientele but also shut the dignified job opportunities for tens of thousands of youth.  Rather it has opened flood gates for exploitation of the labour.  There is no great savings on the part of the banks also; in fact the agencies who serve as middlemen are flourishing at the cost of banks and the poor labourers they employ.  This is stoutly opposed by the UFBU.  Opposing outsourcing is an important demand of the UFBU.


Whenever the charter of demands of the employees is submitted, the managements drag their feet and settle the issues after nearly two to three years from the due date.  This causes a lot of frustration and heart burnings in the minds of the lakhs of workers.  This is not good even from the angle of the management.  Bank employees and officers deserve an immediate decent wage revision taking into consideration their responsibilities and the workload and compared to the other industries.  The banks also perform very well and earn a huge profit.  The per employee business mix has increased manifold in the past few years.  On the one hand the number of branches during the last wage revision period of five years has increased by 18,000; on the other hand the number of employees which in the normal course should have increased at least by seventy to eighty thousands, has reduced by 18,000.


The provision of compassionate ground employment to the family of the deceased when an employee  dies in harness is prevalent in all the industries.  But the same has been denied in the banking industry for the past one decade.  The understanding reached between the unions and the Indian Banks Association is pending with the government for clearance for more than four years.


Updation of pension, full pension after 20 years, improvement in family pension, pension option for those who resigned, uniform DA for pensioners etc, are some of the demands of the bank employees which remain unresolved.  Regulated working hours for officers and five days banking are the other demands about which not even a single round of discussions has been initiated by the IBA/government.


These are some of the issues of the bank employees in addition to the ten issues raised by the central trade unions for the ensuing strike for two days.  The strike for two days is sure to create another history in the working class movement of which bank employees’ movement is a part.