If public sector banks (PSBs) were able to provide Rs 43,000 crore towards bad loans, paid Rs 6,800 crore dividend to the Government and yet made profit of over Rs 50,000 crore loans in the year-ended March 2013, can they not reward their employees with a decent pay hike?
Bank employee unions under the aegis of the United Forum of Bank of Unions (UFBU) want an answer from the managements of these Government-owned banks. To press their demand for a pay hike, banks’ employees will strike work for two days beginning February 10.
About 10 lakh bank officers and employees, predominantly from public sector banks and old generation private sector banks, will participate in the strike, which could severely cripple banking services across the country.
Though the UFBU and PSB managements conducted a few rounds of talks in the last few months for an industry-wide wage settlement, not much headway could be made.
According to Vishwas Utagi, General Secretary, Maharashtra State Bank Employees’ Federation, though the business of PSBs has gone up by about 2.5 times in the last five years without a commensurate increase in staff strength, bank managements are not recognising the fact that the employees’ work load and working hours have increased substantially.
Utagi said while the last industry-wide wage settlement in 2010 resulted in a 17.50 per cent increase in salaries, which at current prices would amount to a total outgo of Rs 10,000 crore for all banks put together, the bank managements were willing to offer only a 10 per cent hike, amounting to about Rs 3,200 crore.
“When banks are willing to accommodate large and mid-sized borrowers by doling out debt restructuring packages, writing off loans, entering into one-time settlements, then, setting aside Rs 10,000 crore towards employee wages should not be a big deal. If bank managements have the will then they can recover this amount by initiating recovery proceedings against just two large defaulting borrowers,” said Utagi.
Ravindra Shetty, Convenor, UFBU (Maharashtra), said employees have helped grow PSBs business manifold. Hence, they should not be made to bear the cross because their banks have written off loans aggregating Rs 95,717 crore in the last six years, accommodated large corporates by giving them the benefit of debt restructuring and one-time settlement of loans.
Though dealing with public money casts tremendous responsibility and accountability on bank employees, they are paid much less than their Government counterparts, Shetty said.
For example, at the entry level, a bank officer’s gross monthly pay adds up to Rs 30,700. In sharp contrast, his counterpart draws a much higher salary at Rs 56,400, he added.
Ramnath Kini, Deputy General Secretary, National Organisation of Bank Workers, said while the Government has announced the 7th Pay Commission for Central Government employees in the run-up to the general elections, the employees of Government-owned banks were being meted out step-motherly treatment.