Tuesday, December 30, 2014

SBI initiates three-pronged strategy to boost its home loan business

Mumbai, December 29: The State Bank of India has initiated a three-pronged strategy to push its home loan business. The country's largest lender will sell its home loan products through the entire group network instead of limiting it to the bank, develop a mechanism to identify right customers for home loans, and implement a uniform delivery system across its branches, a top official said.

"We are looking to grow home loans at 15%-17% in FY16 and how to leverage our group resources," said B Sriram, managing director and group executive (national banking) at SBI.

The state-run bank, which owns more than one fourth of the housing loan market in the country, grew its home loan business 14% year-on-year for the quarter ended September at around Rs 1.49 lakh crore.

With the Reserve Bank of India issuing guidelines for licensing small banks and entry of players such as Bandhan and IDFC, the home loan market is expected to get more competitive in the coming years.

Sriram said SBI plans to connect about 40,000-50,000 counsellors working for its non-bank group subsidiaries such as SBI Mutual Fund and SBI Life Insurance to source home loans, to boost its customer reach. For example, an outsourced counsellor working for SBI Mutual Fund would also approach his clientele for SBI home loans, for which she would earn commissions.

"Alternative channels could be the main channel next 10 years in the banking industry as they attract young customers," Sriram told ET in an interaction. SBI is also working on a mechanism to identify the right customer to offer home loans or any other cross-selling product like mutual fund or insurance. For example, if a customer enters a SBI branch and does a transaction, immediately a screen will prop up on the branch official's computer showing the customer's profile and product suitability.

Friday, December 26, 2014

IBA terms staff unions' demand for 23% wage hike irrational

Mumbai, December 25: Indian Banks’ Association has termed the demand by the United Forum of Bank Union for a 23 per cent increase in pay as “illogical and irrational”.  “Managing Committee of IBA and the Chairmen of all the banks were unequivocal in saying that the demand of 23 per cent increase of Unions/Associations is unaffordable, illogical, exorbitant and irrational,” it said.

The banks are willing to offer a 11 per cent hike on salary and allowances which the lenders say will translate into a 12.5 per cent hike on the balance sheet cost.  The IBA said this number has been arrived at after taking into account the paying capacity of the banks, lower profitability, higher requirements for provisions and further capital requirement under Basel-III.

Earlier, All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) said a meeting of the UFBU held at Mumbai on December 17 had expressed its dissatisfaction with the delay in settling demands for wage revision.

Fourteen rounds of discussion have been held so far between the union and IBA and consensus on effective date of implementation and merger of dearness allowance have been arrived at. However, they have not been able to arrive at an agreement on wage hike yet.

The UFBU had said that it would be holding a one-day all-India strike on January 7 followed by a four-day strike across the country from January 21-24. An indefinite strike would be initiated from March 16 to achieve the demand, it had added.

On the other IBA has made an appeal to UFBU to give up the agitational path and to return to the table for further negotiations. In the meantime, IBA has also requested all member banks to assess their paying capacity and advise them accordingly.

Negotiate, don’t agitate: IBA to unions

17.5% hike in the previous settlement was an exception: IBA

Mumbai, December 25: In the ongoing tug-of-war between unions and bank managements on the issue of wage revision, the Indian Banks’ Association has weighed in saying that the previous bipartite wage settlement was an exception as compared to earlier settlements and cannot be quoted as precedent.

Wage issues

This observation by IBA, which is the representative body of banks, comes in the backdrop of the 10th bipartite wage settlement in the banking sector being delayed for more than two years and unions, representing the interests of about 10 lakh employees, deciding to intensify their agitation for a wage hike.

According to the unions’ game plan, bank employees will not report to work for five days— January 7, and January 21 to 24— next month to press their demand for a wage hike. If bank managements do not settle the issue of wage revision in January-February then the unions have threatened to go on an indefinite strike from mid-March.

While bank managements are willing to offer 11 per cent wage hike, the expectation of the unions is for a 25 per cent (negotiable to 23 per cent) wage hike. In the previous (9th) bipartite wage settlement, covering 2007-2012, an average wage hike of around 17.5 per cent was given.


Pointing out that in the past seventh and eighth bipartite settlements, the wage increase was between 10 per cent and 13 per cent, the IBA, in a statement quoting its Chief Executive MV Tanksale, said, “The ninth bipartite settlement was an exception…

“In the current wage settlement, a hike of 11 per cent on salary and allowances has been offered, based on the paying capacity of all the banks, lower profitability, higher requirements for provisions and further capital requirement under Basel-III, translating into 12.5 per cent on the balance sheet cost. This too is unaffordable to some of the banks.”

Back to the table

The Association said the issues regarding wage negotiation deliberated in the Negotiating Committee of the IBA were further discussed in a larger forum— Managing Committee of IBA— and the Chairmen of all the banks felt the demand for 23 per cent increase made by the Unions/Associations is unaffordable, illogical, exorbitant and irrational.

While IBA has appealed to the Unions/Associations to give up the agitation and return to negotiations to resolve the wage revision issue, unions don’t seem to be in a mood to relent.

Vishwas Utagi, General Secretary, Maharashtra State Bank Employees Federation, said bank managements are stonewalling employees’ demands for a wage hike by citing profitability constraints, the need to shore up capital for meeting the new Basel regulatory standard, and the provisioning burden.

“Bank employees are not responsible for the bad loans that have accumulated in the banking system. In fact, they have helped banks grow their business and profitability. So, there is no reason why bank managements should deny our demands,” he said.

IBA keen on early settlement of wage issues with PSU bank employees

Mumbai, December 25: IBA has urged Bank unions to give up their agitation and to continue their negotiation and is keen on early settlement of wage hike issues of the public sector banks.

It has also requested all member banks to assess their paying capacity and advise them accordingly.

The United Forum of Bank Union (UFBU) had said that it would be holding a one-day all-India strike on January 7 followed by a four-day strike across the country from January 21-24.

An indefinite strike would be initiated from March 16 to achieve the demand, it had added.

After 20 years, Rs.1 paper notes to make a comeback

New Delhi, December 25: One rupee may not buy you much today, yet the Government is keen to start printing ₹1 notes after a gap of almost two decades.

The Government has notified ‘Printing of One Rupee Currency Notes Rules, 2015’, which will come into effect from January 1, 2015. Due to higher cost and for freeing capacity to print higher denomination notes, printing ₹1 note was discontinued in November 1994, followed by ₹2 in February 1995, and ₹5 in November 1995. Since then, only coins have been issued for these denominations. However, old notes are still in circulation and remain legal tender.

As before, the new one rupee note will have the signature of the Finance Secretary. Apart from the one rupee note, all other paper currency (₹2, ₹5, ₹10, ₹20, ₹50, ₹100, ₹500 and ₹1,000) have the signature of the RBI Governor, as these are issued by the Reserve Bank of India, whereas ₹1 is issued by the Government of India.

The new ₹1 note will be different in terms of colour, too. It will be predominantly pink and green. Earlier, the ₹1 currency note had a predominantly indigo colour. Also, the new note will have ‘Bharat Sarkar’ on its masthead, with ‘Government of India’ printed below that. All other currencies have ‘Bhartiya Reserve Bank’ and ‘Reserve Bank of India’ printed on them. While the notification does not give any reason for resuming the printing of ₹1 notes, it is believed that reports of coin shortage and the rising incidence of melting coins might have prompted the move. The notification does not mention how many notes will be printed and issued.

In the last year of its printing, 44 million pieces of ₹1 notes were issued. Despite the RBI’s appeal to change these notes for coins, these are still in circulation. However, there is no current estimate of such notes in circulation.

According to the last official number in RBI’s Annual Report for the year ended June 2002, a total of 3,076 million pieces of ₹1 notes (value ₹308 crore) were in circulation at the end of March 2002.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

RBI staff to join banking sector strike on January 7

Thiruvananthapuram, December 22: Reserve Bank employees have decided to observe a strike on January 7, 2015, in solidarity with the cause of the United Forum of Bank Unions in the commercial banking sector.

The All-India Reserve Bank Employees Association and the All-India Reserve Bank Workers’ Federation have urged the RBI Governor to intervene to bring peace in the banking sector, stating that the RBI cannot remain a mute spectator.

The Association and Federation advised units to observe peaceful and organised action in all RBI offices and liaise with units of the United Forum in the run-up to the strike.

“We have got an important stake in bank employees’ success and achievements. Their settlement has provided us the basis of our wage negotiations, which are pending,” said Samir Ghosh and SV Mahadik, RBI employee union leaders.

“Indian Banks’ Association has created a desperate situation for bank employees whose patience has run out. The Government is silent, unconcerned about the turmoil in this sensitive sector and the plight of millions of customers.”

Bankers have made huge profits in 2012, 2013 and 2014 from the toil and sweat of employees. But they refuse to give them a modest wage increase forcing them to strike work off and on, the leaders noted.

Bank unions call for strike on January 7

Coimbatore, December 21:  The United Forum of Bank Unions (UBFU) has called for an all-India strike on January 7. Expressing its resentment over IBA’s casual attitude and the Government’s lack of response to the union’s demand for an immediate and reasonable wage settlement, the All India Bank Employees’ Association General Secretary CH Venkatachalam said that the Forum has decided to protest including holding mass demonstration at all centres on December 30.

Black badge protest

This will befollowed by black badge protest on January 5, 2015,mass demonstrations/procession and rallies the following day and culminating in all-India strike on January 7. The forum has decided to further intensify its protest by calling for a four days continuous strike between January 21 and 24 and indefinite strike from March 16.

Hits out at IBA

Condemning the action of the IBA in directing the banks to revisit the mandate given to it (IBA) earlier as ‘nothing but a ploy to delay the wage revision negotiation process’, Venkatachalam said, “IBA is sticking to its offer of 11 per cent increase in pay slip component.”

‘IBA is ready to sit and resolve’

But, the IBA chief Mohan V Tanksale, who was in the city to moderate a panel discussion on the implication of Performance Management System in traditional private banks in the context of Gopalakrishna Committee Report on “Capacity and Competence Building in Traditional Private Banks” said that a settlement has to happen and the IBA is ready to sit and resolve the issue.

“We are willing to negotiate. But 23 per cent increase seems quite unreasonable,” he said.

Why one day strike and then 4 days strike?

AIBOC reveal in their circular ..........

Comrades, we have been receiving lot many queries about the decision of single day strike of 7th January, 2015.

 We would like to inform the background which led to the decision of one day strike.
 IBA, vide their Letter No. CIR/HR & IR/XBPS-1/996 dated 2nd December, 2014,
had advised the member banks to update their respective Boards on the present status 
of the wage negotiations developments, its financial implications and if felt necessary,
 revisit the mandate. 

This being a very serious development was discussed in the Working Committee Meeting of Confederation held on 8th December, 2014, at Delhi. 
The Central Office drafted a letter and sent to all its Affiliates for onward submission 
to the Management of the respective Banks to thwart IBA’s tactics of delaying Wage Revision 
and also to obviate the possibility of tinkering with the earlier mandate. 
It was also decided that the same stand would be taken by our Representatives on the boards, 
when the agenda comes for discussion. 

Comrades, this indeed is a very grave development which cannot be ignored. 
The UFBU Constituents met in Mumbai, on 17th December, 2014, subsequent to conciliation talks.
 One of the constituent of UFBU apprised of having taken a decision to call for one day strike 
on this issue and wanted other constituents to join the strike.

 We expressed our view and apprehensions over the effectiveness of one day strike, 
as the issue would have been placed and discussed in many Bank’s Boards by then. 
Since the Affiliate was firm to go on one day strike in first week of January, 2015, 
UFBU decided to observe the strike on 7th January, 2015, for the sake of solidarity 
and to avoid any confusion. 

Comrades, the call of four days strike from 21st to 24th January, 2015 is unprecedented 
and unheard in the history of Banking Industry as a whole. 
The dates are preceding two holidays as 25th January being Sunday and 
26th January a National Holiday. 
Consequently, the Banking will come to a grinding halt for six days. 
Our membership have long being demanding an action like this, but comrades, 
for winning a bigger battle, many small wars have to be won. 
A lot of preparations are required to be undertaken for making our call a tremendous success. 
A thorough action programme is required to be chalked out for preparation at the grass root level. 
Let each one of us make it a mission to make the strike call a huge success 
so that its impact shakes the walls of apathy of the higher authorities. 
This is our fervent appeal to each member of ours, to implement 
all the joint agitational calls given by UFBU religiously.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


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(a) Karaikal Region
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Wage pact: bank unions for long-haul agitation

Thiruvananthapuram, December 18: The United Forum of Bank Unions, which has been negotiating with the Indian Banks’ Association for wage revision in the banking sector for the past two years, has decided to go on an indefinite nationwide strike from March 16.

The decision was taken by the top decision-making body of the UFBU following breakdown of yet another round of conciliation in the presence of the Central Government’s Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner in Mumbai on Wednesday. “We have decided to go on all-India indefinite strike from March 16,” MV Murali, convenor of the nine-union UFBU, told BusinessLine. “Before that, the unions will go on a four-day national strike from January 21; and on January 7, there will be a one-day strike.”

The UFBU’s tough stand follows the logjam in the talks for a five-year wage agreement after a dozen rounds of negotiations between UFBU and the negotiating team of the IBA, which represents the managements of the public- and private-sector banks in the country. Murali said that on Wednesday, the conciliation talks between the team led by IBA’s Deputy CEO K Unnikrishan and UFBU leaders ended in an impasse as the IBA stuck to its guns and there was no forward movement on the demands made by the unions. The IBA was willing to raise wages in the banking industry by only 11 per cent.

‘Delaying tactics’

AK Ramesh Babu, President of the Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI), a member of the UFBU, told BusinessLine that the January 7 strike was an ‘immediate response’ to the highly objectionable ‘delaying tactics’ of the IBA. The IBA had now come up with a new condition that it needed the mandate of the board of directors of all individual banks in the IBA for making any further concessions on wage revision. It had sent circulars to individual bank boards asking them to ‘review the mandate.’

According to Vishwas Utagi, General Secretary, Maharashtra State Bank Employees Federation, bank managements are stonewalling employee demands for a wage hike citing profitability constraints, the need to shore up capital to meet new Basel III norms, and provisioning burden due to stressed loans. “Bank employees are not responsible for the bad loans that have accumulated in the banking system. In fact, they have helped banks grow their business and profitability. So, there is no reason why bank managements should deny our demands.”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

SBI's Work-From-Home Option for Women, How Feasible is the Move?

SBI Chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya’s novel idea of providing women employees of SBI with a work-from-home option is sure to stir up a hornet’s nest in the coming days.

Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman to head the bank ever, has said that she would be looking at ways to increase retention of women staff. While 38-40% of recruits were women, their high dropout rate and absenteeism resulted in women accounting for just of 20% of the workforce.

At present, the strength of women employees in the total workforce of the bank is 45,132, which constitutes slightly more than 20% of the total staff strength of 2,22,033. Bhattacharya said that the dropouts were for various reasons, including looking after children, to relocate or to look after the elderly.

After she took charge, the bank announced that it would allow women to take a two-year sabbatical from work in case they want it for children's education or taking care of parents.

Maybe Ms. Bhattacharya’s initiative doesn’t stem from a modern-day compulsion alone. In fact, in the late 18th and early 19th century, around the same time SBI was founded, working women, especially mothers, in Europe increasingly found it difficult to combine paid labour with familial responsibilities due to the demanding nature of the new industrial job in textile and clothing factories.

As their contribution to the aforementioned industries couldn’t be underplayed, the concept of ‘separation of workplace from home’ was done away with in order to accommodate their twin roles. Thus, working mothers found solace by engaging with home-based work through the setting up of small-scale workshops.

Though the Industrial Revolution redefined the spheres of ‘domesticity’ and ‘home’ as exclusively feminine, it also brought about a transformation of workplace and newer representations of gender.

Thus male workers/employees came to be solely engaged in economic activity while staying aloof from child-raising and household chores. Women, on the other hand, had to constantly concern themselves with maternity and motherhood.

A lot of what sexual division of labour at the professional level shows us from the past continues to impact working women of the present. Of course, the ‘natural’ order of things cannot be compromised for any revolutionary change in gender functions thereby work-from-home option ‘has’ to be a convenience only for working mothers.

Over the years, feminist groups have been calling for equal pay and status for women in the professional sphere. At the same time, there has been an outcry over the reservation tactic employed to ‘privilege’ women, as achieving equality through a social transformation is a long-drawn process.

The SBI initiative makes sense only in case of maternity leave and not for any other reason, like child’s education and taking care of parents as cited by the company, which could be carried out by a working father as well. Why does such a facility favour only women when it should ideally be granted on the nature of given work irrespective of gender considerations?

So, a more comprehensive solution would be to extend this benefit even to male employees who, albeit in minority cases, would want to stay on at home for the same purpose.

The doubts over technological feasibility can wait. What demands far greater attention is the gender disparity it creates in the quest for a diluting a patriarchal setup, both in the domestic and professional spheres.

Apart from this flaw on the gender front, the move has been tried and tested by American multinational company, Yahoo whose CEO Marissa Mayer decided on the ban on work-from-home after spending months frustrated at how empty Yahoo parking lots were and after consulting Yahoo's VPN logs to see if remote employees were checking in enough.

Her argument was quite logical, "People are more productive when they're alone, but they're more collaborative and innovative when they're together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together."

Lots of people around the country and world work from home these days, and many of them - particularly mothers - seemed to view Mayer's ban as a threat on their way of working.

But productivity would take a huge hit due to the lack of a monitoring system and a phenomenal risk of many employees availing the benefit as opposed to an office desk job. Instead, a more plausible solution would be to limit the period of work-from home duties to a maximum of 2-3 years in the case of employees who’ve applied for leave owing to secondary domestic responsibilities.

Another way to prevent many employees from availing this benefit would be to introduce a pay-cut of 20-30%. This is to be done keeping in mind the ‘additional advantages’ enjoyed by work-from employees as they wouldn’t incur either travel (thereby saving time) or overhead expenses (like fuel and maintenance). On the flip side, it could create more job opportunities in any sector providing the work-from home option.

There is also an environmental good, though small: resultant reduction in the use of private/company vehicles brings down pollution levels.

There has to be a complete overhaul of the labour laws allowing paid and casual leave in the event of an employee already benefiting from the work-from home scheme. In extremely veritable cases, the remote employees could be allowed flexible working hours depending on the time they would have to invest for other purposes.

However, as of now, the idea appears too far-fetched and unattainable. Perhaps, the single-most impediment would be on the technical feasibility considering the geographical spread of the SBI’s branches.

Instead, why not devise a system by which employees aren’t subjected to regular transfers far from their hometown? Or maybe even setup crèche facilities for a temporary period?

It is, therefore not at all surprising that modern private banking institutions like HDFC and ICICI haven’t mulled over such innovations precisely due to the fallout in productive capacity of the company.

Thus, the scheme is beset with a two-fold complication: Firstly, the need to extend the option to all employees if introduced as a company policy and secondly, to develop suitable technology to oversee the work done by them.

Ultimately, the wisdom of the primary stakeholders, i.e. the employees and industry experts have to be consulted before any fast-track measure is in the offing. Like Margaret Heffernan once said, “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate”.

Written by Carl Jaison on The Seasonal Magazine, Published on December 16, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

10th Bipartite Update

Today (17.12.2014) UFBU hold an internal meeting with its constituents in Mumbai and took following decisions :
→ One Day Strike on 7th January
→ Four Days strike from 21st to 24th January
→ Indefinite Strike from 16th March onwards
More details soon. Bankers, prepare for battle. What we all were demanding, as UFBU have came up with it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SBI looking into work from home option for women employees

Mumbai, December 15:  State Bank of India (SBI) is studying the technological feasibility of allowing women employees to work out of home for some functions. The bank's IT department will advise the management whether it is possible to have systems in place for monitoring and supervising work being done remotely.

Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman to head the bank in 208 years, had said that she would be looking at ways to increase retention of women staff. After she took charge, the bank announced that it would allow women to take a two-year sabbatical from work in case they want it for children's education or taking care of parents.

Speaking to TOI while flagging off the SBI Pinkathon, a marathon for women aimed at raising awareness of breast cancer, Bhattacharya said that, while 38-40 per cent of recruits were women, their high dropout rate resulted in women accounting for just of 20 per cent of the workforce.

At present, the strength of women employees in the total workforce of the bank is 45,132, which constitutes more than 20 per cent of the total staff strength of 2,22,033. Bhattacharya said that the dropouts were for various reasons, including looking after children, to relocate or to look after the elderly.

"We try to accommodate staff where transfers are concerned, but right now we are not able to provide flexible timings. We are looking at whether it is technologically possible to allow working from home," said Bhattacharya.

She said that the bank has chosen to support the Pinkathon to raise awareness of women's health.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Talks on wage revision between IBA and UFBU at Mumbai on 17.12.2014

Conciliation meeting on 17.12.2014
Latest news:
Conciliation meeting is arranged by
Labour commissioner at 11.30 AM
at Mumbai on 17.12.2014 for
Talks on wage revision between IBA and UFBU.
Previous news:

BEFI Circular dt.08.12.2014 says........

the next meeting of UFBU has been slated to be held on 
17th this month at Hyderabad to take stock of the situation and 
to decide upon further course of action depending upon developments. 

Let us all await the decision of UFBU and prepare ourselves 
for carrying forward the struggle, as may be so decided, 
with courage, conviction and zeal.
Get prepared for intensified struggle ahead.

Friday, December 12, 2014

PSU Bankers are paid poorly: SBI Chairman

New Delhi, December 11: Lamenting that bankers are paid very poorly in India, especially at public sector banks, SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya today said there is an urgent need to provide better remuneration to attract good talent.

Bankers are paid poorly in India as compared to their counterparts elsewhere in the world, she said.  “Let me start with income of banking professionals in India. Here, 70 per cent of the banks are in public sector and they are paid very very poorly compared to market,” she said at Delhi Economic Conclave here.

The SBI chief said there is urgent need to improve quality of board members by providing them suitable remuneration so that the overall efficiency improves.

“We are very blessed in that. SBI has invariably had very good quality board. But that may not be true across (other banks’) board. One of the reasons is very low remuneration that is given to the board directors,” she said.

“If you are trying to attract best in the field, they have to be remunerated accordingly. We must insist on people who are coming into the board having sufficient hands on experience in both planning and execution in their respective areas,” she said. So, this is something that government can easily implemented and should be done, she added.

The comments come about a week after PSU bank employee unions went to a four-day relay strike to press for early revision of wages.

With regard to governance, she said P J Nayak Committee has very clearly laid out certain roadmap as to how governance can be taken forward.  “I believe the government is looking at it. While they do look at it, I believe there are very some low-hanging fruits and those could be easily implemented within a short period of time,” she added.

Talking about changing regulation in tune with the present system, Bhattacharya said India has over 60 Acts and multiple rules and regulations that govern the financial system at the moment. “Many of the laws are from 1950s and 1960s. The banking regulations themselves they were established before ATMs, credit cards, internet banking, investment advisory, private banking, mutual funds,… whole lot of other things,” she said.

“These acts have been amended from time to time to keep pace with changing reality but the legal foundations have remain more or less static and as the result the framework is very complex and inconsistent,” she said. “Occasionally, it is also open to regulatory arbitrage. So, we need to look at these things also holistically and move the laws to be in tandem with the times,” she added.

With regard to improving governance, Bhattacharya also pitched for a good Whistle Blower policy with the objective to protect innocent and punish guilty.

“In the area of governance, its very important especially in the public sector banks to nurture and have a good Whistle Blower policy to ensure that people who actually give right information are properly rewarded and those who actually misuse the system they are penalised,” she said.

“We must free the public sector from the disgruntled and weapons of anonymous and superfluous complaints that they use. These complaints very often contain allegations that are totally full of lies but a lot of resources get tied up in looking into these things,” she added. Good people who have taken strong decision should not be unnecessary paralysed on account of false allegations, she said.