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.”

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