IN India, banking services were adversely affected on Wednesday as employees of public sector banks and private and foreign banks commenced a two-day nationwide strike . The bank strike impacted deposit in branches, FD renewal, government treasury operation and money market operations.As the two per cent wage hike failed to convince the bank unions, nearly 1 million bank employees will go on strike which kicked off at 6 am. The United Forum of Banking Unions (UFBU), an umbrella body of nine bank unions, has called for a nationwide bank strike against wage hike proposed by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).Vice-President of National Organisation of Bank Workers, Ashwani Rana told news agencies that on May 5, the IBA refused to revise wages for all officers, citing poor financial conditions at banks. Large public sector banks had reported huge losses in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2018 owing to mounting bad loans. The ATM security guards also participated in the protest. The strike coinciding with the end of the month, salary withdrawals were affected. The UFBU has demanded early wage review settlement, sufficient increase in salary and improvement in other service conditions and wage revision settlement for all officers up to scale VII.The latest round of wage revision for all banks is due from November 1, 2017.
Additional Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) Rajan Verma met the bank unions represented by the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU),Finance Ministry officials and bank management, represented by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) to avert the strike.“The CLC tried his best to sort out the strike-related issues but there is no positive development. Though the bankers, through the IBA, said they are willing to reconsider the proposed wage hike, there was no concrete proposal. Hence, the strike stands,” All India Bank Employees’ Association General Secretary C H Venkatachalam told media .D T Franco, general secretary, All India Bank Officers’ Confederation said about 1 million bank officers are expected to participate in the strike on May 30 and May 31. During the conciliation proceedings, the bank unions told the CLC that 2 per cent wage hike proposed by the bankers is not at all acceptable, considering the rise in cost of living.The officials from the IBA stated that they have had several rounds of discussions in respect of wage negotiations…in view of the huge non-performing assets or bad loans in the banks, only 2 per cent of wage increase was offered. But they also stated that they are still not closed and ready to negotiate further,” according to the minutes of the meeting. Bank unions, however, argued that the wage hike should not be linked to bad loans of banks since it is “not disputed that employees are contributing significantly (towards functioning of banks) through their hard work.”In the last wage revision in 2012, which was for the period between November 1, 2012, and October 31, 2017, bank employees got 15 per cent wage hike and AIBOC Joint General Secretary Ravinder Gupta said the unions were expecting a better salary increase this time.“The volume of business and the volume of work of the employees and officers have gone up enormously in the recent years… In addition, bank employees and officers are compelled to undertake so much of non-banking business and all the burden of doing various government schemes have fallen on the shoulders of the bank staff,” the strike notice issued by UFBU, an umbrella body of nine unions.Another point of contention for the unions was the IBA’s decision to restrict wage negotiations to scale-III officers or up till the senior manager-level. However, bank unions are demanding a wage hike for officers up to scale-VII which will include general managers, deputy general managers, assistant general manager and divisional managers. The CLC told the bank management to consider wage negotiation for these officers too, as has been a practice in the past. Banks are divided over the level of officers that will be covered in the wage negotiation. Without naming them, the IBA representative told the CLC that the six banks were opposed to the move of covering general-manager level officials. The CLC advised the bank management to offer a fresh wage hike and said “as in the past, wage settlements, the officers from scale-IV to scale-VII were also covered so this time also they may be a part of the wage negotiations because excluding them may cause a fresh controversy which may not be conducive for amicable industrial relations. Bank officials said on Tuesday they would replenish ATMs before the strike, but are apprehensive whether the ATMs — which run dry due to the heavy month-end withdrawals — can be fed again with cash by private service providers. “Online bank operations will remain fully functional. If bank branches and ATMs are forcibly closed, cash transactions could be impacted,” a regional manager of a private sector bank said.” (Inputs from The Economic Times)