After more than 3 years of negotiations, strikes and agitations, wage revision for bank employees has been signed on 11.11.2020. For the award staff it is called Bipartite Settlement as they are covered under the Industrial Disputes Act and for officers it is called a Joint Note based on their bargaining strength.
The highlights of the Wage Revision are
- 15% raise in wages as on 1.11.2017 out which only 2.5% goes towards basic pay which is counted for superannuation benefits.
- 5 days leave encashment every year out of their earned leave up to the age 55 and 7 days leave encashment above 55 years.
- Contribution towards National Pension Scheme increased to 14% of basic pay in line with central government employees.
- Performance linked incentive to employees of banks whose operating profit is more than 5% in a year.
- Within the 15%, introduction of allowances like transport allowance for award staff and learning allowance and location allowance in non CCA centres.
- Some improvements in leave rules
- Promise of 30% of pay as family pension as applicable for government servants after the GoI approves.
One of the unions, Bank Employees Federation of India walked out during the signing of MoU, 3 months back. Other unions and associations are claiming it as historic settlement.
These are the following deviations from the earlier settlement.
- The Finance Minister openly went to the media that she has asked the chairman IBA and chairman SBI to take care of the bank employees and retired employees and family members. She also addressed the Annual General Meeting of IBA one day before.
But in reality, there was nothing given more than what was already agreed with IBA almost a month back. The pensioners issue is not finalised. Many other demands are left hanging. Normally IBA does not call the unions and associations till the time of next wage revision.
One award staff union claims that there are 100 reasons to cheer but officers organisations have written to IBA mentioning 18 issues left out in the agreement and they are requesting another meeting to discuss which may not happen unless they agitate and lobby.
Important issues left out are
- Five day banking which is close to the heart of every bank employee as international banks, RBI, central government, private sector, IT companies and several state governments work only 5 days in a week.
- Updation of pension for retirees where there are numerous anomalies and court cases in spite of Supreme Court ruling that pension is not a bounty, 50% of the last drawn pay should be the pension and no employer can say that they don’t have money to pay pension. In fact RTI replies prove that there is enough in pension funds to remove these anomalies.
One of the biggest drawback in the settlement is apportioning the increase in wages. For the first time in decades during the last settlement it was only 2% of the increase given to basic pay and this time it is 2.5% (normally 10-11% goes towards basic). This is done to reduce the superannuation benefits of gratuity, provident fund and pension.
After the last wage revision in banks the insurance employees and officers got their wage revision with 11.5% of the wage increase apportioned towards basic pay. So their basic pay is much more than that of bankers. This time also the same is likely to happen. So there will be a huge difference.
Another is that in spite of this wage revision, the starting basic pay of central government peon or subordinate staff is more than that of the clerical staff in banks. Similar is the basic pay of officers.
Biggest blow is that the government has managed to divide the unions and associations to among themselves. Officers and award staff had unity through United Forum of Bank Unions. During the last settlement government allowed one more union which is not part of UFBU but has allegiance to ShivSena to sign the settlement which is continued now also. It is because of UFBU, the banking sector unions and associations were seen as powerful.
With the division the government will find it easy to privatise the public sector banks which is going to happen soon.
After this government came to power there is no officer/employee director in public banks which is mandatory, in spite of a directive from Delhi High Court in 2017, the unions could not get the appointments done which makes them handicapped.
Another issue which is likely to crop up is due to the change in Trade Union Act and Industrial Disputes Act which have been changed into Industrial Relations Code. Unions with membership below 10% may not be called for any negotiation. Workers with salary of Rs.18000 PM and above are called employees / supervising staff.
The draft rules do not talk about employees and supervising staff. There will be a Workers Committee and Grievance Redressal Committee.
Another provision of the Code says, for strike, you have to give 60 days’ notice instead of 15 days. Then it will be referred to a tribunal. If tribunal fails again, 60 days needed for strike. So one of the main tools available is taken away.
The Central Trade Unions have decided to fight against the four Labour Codes. One of the Nov 26 strike demands is change in Labour Codes.
But only 2 unions in the banking sector AIBEA & BEFI are joining the strike.
So the future of wage revision and trade unionism in banking sector is in question.
- The Finance Minister wants to settle few demands, like updation of pension and family pension outside the bipartite mechanism to weaken the trade unions.
- Five day week is not in the horizon.
- The disunity among unions and associations is going to cost them a lot.
- The younger generation is unhappy and a section of them are working under the banner, “We Bankers”
- Officers Association has many internal contradictions and one group under the banner of Nationalised Bank Officers Federation is revolting and filing cases.
- The unions and associations are getting alienated from the public, the customers due to shortage of staff, bank charges and poor service.
Is it the end of the road? It depends on the leaders of the trade unions.
Thomas Franco is former General Secretary of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation.