Ten lakh bank employees and officers of 26 Public Sector Banks, 12 old generation Private Banks and 57 Regional Rural Banks observed All India Bank strike from February 10 to 11 under the banner of United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) for the demand of wage revision. United Forum of Bank Unions is an umbrella organisation of 9 bank employees and officers unions. The UBFU includes All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), National Confederation of Bank Employees (NCBE), All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC), Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), Indian National Bank Employees Federation (INBEF), Indian National Bank Officers Congress (INBOC), National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW), All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA), and National Organisation of Bank Officers (NOBO).
More than 10,00,00 branches and offices of all Public Sector, old generation Private Sector Banks and Regional Rural Banks were affected. Services such as cheque clearances and withdrawing and depositing of money were affected. At many places ATMs went dry resulting in hardship for retail customers. We are sorry that the banking public would have been inconvenienced by this strike but that was unavoidable due to the non-serious approach of the IBA/ Government.
The strike was called to demand immediate Wage Revision for bank employees and officers and to protest against retrograde Banking Sector reforms like privatisation of Public Sector Banks, granting licence to corporate houses to start their own Banks, encouraging foreign Banks to take over our Banks, siphoning out huge amounts through write off of bad loans of corporate defaulters, etc.
The bank employees’ wage revision is due since November 1, 2012. The Unions have submitted their Charter of Demands in October 2012. In the last 15 months, 8 rounds of discussions have taken place between IBA and UFBU and date of effect from 01.11.2012 and DA Merger only two issues settled.
The two-day strike scheduled for January 20-21, 2014 was deferred. Earlier also Bank Unions had gone on one day nationwide strike on December 18, 2013 after the discussions with the IBA on wage revision had failed on December 14, 2013.
The IBA has made an initial offer of 5 per cent salary increase on “pay slip component” which was enhanced to 9.5 per cent after the Unions gave a strike notice and Central Labour Commissioner (CLC) intervened to avert the strike. In the last meeting held on January 27, 2014 IBA revised their offer from 9.50 to 10 per cent. In view of this, the IBA was informed by UFBU that their offer falls to short of our demand and expectation and hence not acceptable to us. We urged the IBA to substantially revise their offer to reach an acceptable position. IBA could not do so but requested us to withdraw the agitation and continue the talks. Since their offer was too low and not acceptable to us, it was decided to go ahead with the strike action on February 10 and 11, 2014.
CLC called a conciliation meeting on February 6 and tried to avoid the strike. Since IBA could not make revised offer conciliation meeting concluded without result.
The intention of the UFBU is neither to cause inconvenience to the customers nor loss to the country’s economy. The strike could have been avoided, but for the adamant attitude of the IBA and Government combine in not coming forward with an improved offer paving the way for a respectable and reasonable wage revision. The responsibility and the duty of the employees and officers towards ensuring growth in business, productivity and generating increased gross income have been fully discharged.
Bank employees are not happy with the statement of the Finance Minister P Chidambaram in which he has said that all the profits cannot be used for enhancing salaries. “I will appeal to employees and officers of banks to recognise that banks profits, banks earnings have other claims. While claims of officers, staff and employees must be duly acknowledged, and a fair and just (wage) settlement is arrived at, there are other claimants to banks’ profit,” he said. Bank employees are not asking for entire profits of the Banks. We are only asking due share of cake for our justified wage revision, which is due since November 1, 2012.
IBA and Government have raised the issue of paying capacity of the Banks. For the year ending March 2013 Gross Profit of the Public Sector Banks is 1.21 lakh crore out of which 70 thousand crore, are provisioning and net profit is 50 thousand crore. Out of 70 thousand crore 50 thousand crore are provisioning for NPAs for which employees are no way concerned. Government has offered 3175 crore for wage revision of 10 lakh bank employees and officers. Government has taken 10 thousand crore as their share of dividend from Public Sector Banks. Banks has written off Rs 1.40,000 crore in last 7 years.
Unions are always open to resolve the demands by discussions and negotiations but the IBA and the Government should also be forthcoming. If the same negative attitude continues, the unions will be left with no alternative than to further intensify the agitation.
(The writer is national vice-president of National Organisation of Bank Workers)
BMS to fight for social security for all
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) well aware of the Congress Government’s anti-labour policies was alarmed when in 1991, the Government adopted the policy of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG). It did not take them long to understand what a havoc it could cause to the labours. It would strike hard at the little security they had of jobs, wages and social protection. BMS decided to awaken the working force of the danger ahead. The LPG policy has brought down work force in organised sector from the prevailing 8 per cent in 1991 to 6 per cent.
BMS in its triennial conference in 2008 at Cuttack (Odisha) decided to organise the contract workers and make them start a united struggle against the impending danger. Three years later, in 2011 conference at Jalgaon (Maharashtra) it resolved to start ‘Challo Gaon Ki Ore’ (March to Village) movement.
The government on its part, in order to preserve its pro-poor image introduced old age pension, widow pension, facilities to handicaps and above all National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme that guaranrted 100 days job to a member of each rural household. This flagship scheme miserably failed as it could not provide more than 43 days job in a year. Delay in wage payments and corruption brought further ill name to it. Even the earlier scheme of Public Distribution of Food grains has collapsed as the supply side is irregular and the food grains are of cattle class.
BMS has been demanding of the government to arrange ‘Decent Work’ so that the workers could provide basic needs of appropriate quality of food, education, health care and shelter for the family. The government instead has been promoting contract labour that they along with private sector companies can exploit easily. They prefer to put contract labour even on jobs of regular nature, so as to avoid payment of ESI, EPF and gratuity etc.
There is no doubt that there is some improvement in the attitude of the government towards the contract labour under pressure from BMS and other trade unions but still a lot remains to be done.
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh gives equal status to capital and labour. But what we find under UPA government is the gap between the income of rich and the poor and that of industry and labour is widening. It will have to be plugged. Moreover each worker must get benefit of schemes like ESI, EPF, EPS etc. It is pity that members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies are entitled for pension once they have taken oath while workers are often denied even after 30 years of service. Govt. recently has agreed to pay a minimum pension of Rs. 1000/- against BMS demand of Rs 3000/- linked with price index. Even Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour recommends the demands of BMS.
BMS has demanded total ban on contract system so that labour may get due wages, easy jobs and social security. In the ensuing session of 17thAll India Conference at Jaipur from February 21 to 23. BMS is likely to plan its future strategy for achieving “Social Security for All”.
(The writer is zonal organising secretary of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and can be contacted at pawankumar_bms@ rediffmail.com)