By Prarthana Mitra
To protest against an insufficient hike in salaries, over a million officers and employees serving in state-run banks will be on a nationwide strike on Wednesday and Thursday. While bankers are evidently upset that their pay scale has been revised by just 2% by the management body, banking services across the country are expected to take a serious hit especially during the end of the month.
What led up to this?
The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) representatives have been threatening to strike since early May, but negotiations with the labour and finance ministries seemed to have reached an impasse during the last round of deliberations.
On May 5, Indian Banks Association (IBA) made two “unacceptable” propositions including an offer of 2% hike, United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) said in a statement. It was also adamant about restricting officers’ demands up to Scale III only, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary CH Vekatachalam told PTI.
“The UFBU leaders conveyed their grievance that there is an inordinate delay, an offer of 2% was not in good taste and the practice of wage negotiation for officers up to Scale VII which has been the practice has to continue,” said All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC) General Secretary D Franco.
Rejecting the offer immediately, the UFBU threatened to strike in order to press their demands.
What have negotiations so far amounted to?
IBA, trying to pacify the situation said they were willing to consider the revised offer but also reportedly requested the UFBU to quantify their demands. According to reports, six banks have submitted a restricted mandate.
In response to IBA’s arguments against the losses that banks have incurred lately, UFBU representatives quoted figures to prove how operating profits of banks have doubled, staff expenses reduced while business has more than doubled.
The Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) also intervened, saying that officers and employees ought not to be paid based on profit in any case, but instead should be commensurated in accordance with the hard work they put in, and the rising cost of living.
“Bank officers and employees are not getting their dues for the efforts they put in -be it the recent cash crunch or the demonetisation exercise earlier,” said Ravinder Gupta, Joint General Secretary, All India Bank Officers’ Confederation.
Here’s what happens now and how it affects you
Unable to give assurance or a concrete proposal, IBA chose to prolong negotiations. The union grew increasingly impatient with the same despite all conciliatory efforts. “We had given a 25 days advance notice to IBA about the strike, but it failed to negotiate with the bank unions to avoid the strike despite the intervention of the CLC,” Gupta added.
Vekatachalam has also severely criticised the government for being not being serious about early wage settlement in the banks. “It is unfortunate that when the government wants and expects bank employees and officers to extend all co-operation to implement all the schemes of the government through the banks, when it comes to the legitimate demands for a reasonable and fair increase in wages, the government is not paying serious attention,” he said.
The public will suffer from yet another tussle between the drivers of economy and state. With ATM transactions down for two days starting Wednesday, pressing needs and emergencies will have to wait until June 1. Public sector banks including State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Canara Bank have forewarned their users about the possible closure of their outlets and ATM kiosks. So if your salary gets credited over the next two days, you will be able to withdraw it only after the strike ends on Friday.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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