Money & Banking

Bank strike: Unions seethe as IBA dubs them 'irresponsible'

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on February 02, 2020 Published on February 02, 2020

Acceding to union demands not feasible, says banks’ association

The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), which went on a two-day strike from Friday to press its demands, has taken grave exception to the Indian Banks' Association (IBA) branding it as 'irresponsible.'

This is demeaning of the IBA's stature and condemnable and such an advertisement from a public body is unprecedented, the UFBU said in response to a public notice put out by the IBA.

Multiple rounds of talks

The IBA had, in its notice on January 31, said multiple rounds of talks had been held between the IBA negotiation committee and the UFBU for wage revision of bank employees. In the meeting held on January 30, despite the revised offer of an up to 19 per cent hike including performance-linked incentives made from the IBA side, the unions had decided to go on an all-India bank strike on January 31 and February 1, to be followed by other agitational programmes, said the IBA notice.

During discussions, the conditions of business, paying capacity of banks, and their consistent efforts at providing various types of benefits to employees from time to time were explained. But the unions pressed for the demands which were not acceptable to the IBA, said the notice.

Five-day banking

One such demand is for five-day banking. It is known to all that the economy is going through testing times, said the IBA, adding that being principal players in economic development, banks cannot afford to provide fewer number of working days. "Our country already has the highest number of public holidays, and creating 26 more holidays would create more problems for the public. For the convenience of customers, banks will keep alternative/digital channels available (on the days of strike) for day-to-day banking. We regret the inconvenience caused to the general public because of the irresponsible behaviour of the unions," it added.

A Raghavan, Joint Secretary, National Confederation of Bank Employees, and General Secretary, State Banks Staff Union, said that the management had only dragged employees and officers to strike action. From as early as February 2017, the UFBU had been taking up the need to revise wages. The extant guidelines themselves demand that discussions on wage revision begin within six months from the lapse of the previous settlement.

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) itself had written to the IBA on various occasions to conclude the talks before the expiry of the earlier settlement, said Raghavan.

Work-life balance

Further, the UFBU has been prudent enough to participate in 40 rounds of discussions on the matter with an open mind and with abstract details and data, Raghavan said. "When the sector has been making an average operating profit of Rs 1. 5-lakh crore every year, it behoves on the IBA to explain to the nation as to what prevents them from acceding to our legitimate demands."

How grave the work-life balance in the sector has turned needs a through discussion as much as how poorly the wages compare with comparable sectors, he added. The UFBU has been always ready for a debate on the policies in the financial sector based on facts and experience. The IBA should begin a national debate on democratic banking norms in the country, Raghavan further said.

Published on February 02, 2020

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