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Tuesday, Jun 25, 2002

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No plans for fresh VRS offer in banks

Sarbajeet K. Sen

NEW DELHI, June 24

BANK unions agitated over rumours of a possible fresh round of bank-specific voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) can relax for the time-being. Not a single public sector bank has yet approached the Government with a formal proposal for further downsizing.

Officials of the Ministry of Finance said that though some banks had been making public their intent to offer another round of VRS, none of them had sounded out the Government in this regard.

"We do not have any new VRS proposal in front of us. The belief that we have given a go-ahead for some banks to offer their individual VRS package is not true,'' officials told Business Line.

Though PSU banks have been left to decide on their staff requirement including any further move of downsizing, no such move can be implemented without obtaining a clearance from the Government.

Bank unions, however, have taken exception to the talk of a further round of VRS and have called for a nationwide agitation on June 27 to protest the move.

State Bank of India (SBI), which had at one point said that it might consider a fresh VRS offer in view of the technology initiative, has now clarified that it is, in fact, looking at recruiting fresh hands to take care of the expanded business.

Other banks which are reported to be thinking of reducing their staff strength further through VRS are Bank of India and Central Bank of India.

All the public sector banks, with the sole exception of Corporation Bank, had participated in an industry-wide VRS proposal formulated by the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) during 2000-01.

The PSU banks had collectively shed nearly 11 per cent of their employee strength during the exercise.

Subsequently, the Government has ruled out any further industry-wide VRS scheme.

However, it has said that banks deciding to downsize further would have to come up with individual proposals.

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