(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 02, 2014
Bank Employees to Go on Two-Day Strike
C P Krishnan
REJECTING the offer of a meagre increase of 0.5 percent over the previous offer of 9.5 percent of the pay slip component during the wage revision talks, all the nine unions of employees and officers under the banner of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) have decided to go on a two-day nationwide strike on February 10 and 11, 2014.
One may note that the wage revision of bank employees had fallen due in November 2012, and that they had submitted a common charter of demands well in time. Then there were five rounds of negotiations between the IBA (Indian Banks Association), which represents the managements of 58 public and private sector banks, and the UFBU till November 2013 at the interval of every two months. As there was no concrete offer even after one year, the bank employees and officers struck work for a day on December 18, 2013, in order to express their protest and anger over the inaction of the IBA and the central government in settling the wage revision reasonably. As there was still no sign of any seriousness on the part of the IBA, the UFBU gave a two-day strike call on January 20 and 21, 2014 in order to press their demand of an immediate and reasonable wage revision.
The chief labour commissioner (CLC) intervened on January 13, 2014 and directed the IBA to hold talks with the agitating unions and settle their demands. Then there was a bilateral discussion on January 17, 2014, wherein the IBA made their initial offer of 9.5 percent of the pay slip component, which roughly worked out to Rs 3,000 crore for eight lakh employees and officers of public sector banks. They also promised to hold bilateral talks every fortnight and sign the settlement before June 2014. Accepting the gesture of the IBA, the unions deferred their strike call and agreed to participate in the negotiations slated for January 27, 2014, with an open mind.
During the talks the IBA improved its offer by a mere 0.5 percent and thus insulted lakhs of bank employees and officers. In the meantime the IBA was obstinate in its counter demands which included termination of the service of an employee at the age of 55 years or after completion of 30 years of service, free hand to transfer the employees anywhere in the state, introduction of variable pay depending upon Ĺperformanceĺ of the employee with a view to divide and rule the employees. All the reasonable arguments put forth by the leaders of the UFBU to maintain the congenial atmosphere in order to continue the talks went unheeded.
It is to be noted that as the wage revision fetched last time was 17.5 percent of the total wage bill of the employees and officers, the offer of the IBA could be no basis for further talks.
It was in this background that leaders of the nine unions under the banner of the UFBU gave a call for 48 hours strike, commencing from 6 a m on February 10 and ending at 6 a m on February 12, 2014.
While the price rise is sky rocketing; the per employee profit of the banks has increased by more than 75 percent during this period of five years. The per employee business mix has increased two fold --- from Rs six crore to Rs 12 crore. The number of branches opened during this period is more than 20,000 while the number of workmen has been reduced by more than 20,000. The bank employees and officers are working under tremendous pressure, bearing heavy workloads. Besides, they shoulder the responsibility of fulfilling the objectives of the government by ensuring the reach of priority sector advances and financial inclusion.
The bank employees and officers are also committed to save the public sector character of the banking industry and are opposed to corporate licensing.
There is not a single reasonable point to deny immediate and fair wage revision for the bank employees and officers. The employees and officers have been pushed to go in for a strike, as all the avenues have been exhausted.
As many as ten lakh bank employees and officers, working in over 80,000 branches all over country, will participate in this strike. Besides the employees of commercial banks, one lakh employees and officers of the regional rural banks, spread over 18,000 branches all over the nation, will also go on strike on these two days pressing the same demand.
The UFBU has fervently appealed to the public to understand the problem and bear with the inconvenience that may be caused on account of the strike.