Bank Unions Join All India Strike

“The neo-liberal economic policies are aggravating the problems of the workers and common masses “− CH Venkatachalam, General Secretary, All-India Bank Employees’ Association

Major central trade unions (CTU) across India and across sectors are going on strike on 2nd September and the bank unions are to join the call says the General Secretary, All-India Bank Employees’ Association CH Venkatachalam. The strike, declared in earlier in the year was primarily against the governments proposed labour policies which are being viewed as ‘anti –labou , anti-people and pro-employer/corporate’ . The CTU’s have also presented the Government with a 12 point charter of demands. An estimated five lakh bank employees are expected to join the strike, and this includes employees across the banking sector inclusive of private and foreign banks, along with co-operatives. The bank unions have stated several reasons for joining the strike such as the constant attempts at privatization, urban and rural banks are facing constant threats of de-licensing and privatization respectively. It has been reported that the government in their stead fast pace is introducing public sector banks without adequate infrastructure and manpower much to the harassment of the bank staff involved. Also joining the strike are the employees and workmen associations of the Reserve Bank of India and the AIBOA (The All India Bank Officers Association), the newly formed private sector wing. It aims to deal with the issues faced by private banks, which usually do not have employee unions.

The unrest in the current bank workforce is circling around issues such as − outsourcing of bank functions, discrimination in performance linked bonuses, tax exemption in pensions, contractualisation of permanent jobs, among other things, quoted a statement issued by the AIBOA.

The resistance trade unions have demonstrated to the new consolidated labour laws appears primarily against the obvious benefit and advantage the management would get over employees. In the eventuality of the bill being passed there would be a considerable diminishment of coverage that workmen and staffers are entitled to under laws such as the Provident Fund Act or the Minimum Wages Act. The Bill stands where it is, in order to realize Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ vision and thus making India more investor friendly.

The Government made its final attempt last week to dissuade trade unions from striking, which forms part of the second industrial action this year, against the land acquisition bill in addition to the labour laws .The Government’s the stand has been that the unions have to alter their presence in establishments in order for the changes to be implemented. In the 46th Indian Labour Congress, Arun Jaitely tries to drive in the point that, ‘unless there is investment in the economy, there can be no fresh job creation, which is at the very heart of the trade union activities’ (as reported). Unions have been deemed to be short sighted, as they continue to oppose Jaitelys proposals such as using the NPS option over EPRO.

While the debate continues and the logjam did not see any resolve, the strike was not called off, despite the Government accepting few of the demands presented. The Labour Ministry suggested an estimated calculation for wages which are :- For unskilled workers the range to be from Rs 7,100 to Rs 10,000 per month and that for skilled workers would range from Rs 14,000 and Rs 20,000pm. Both the figures proposed seem to bean incremental rise from the existing wage which is less than Rs 5000 per month, however the trade unions are demanding Rs 15000 per month.

As far as the ceilings of bonuses are concerned, unions have demanded the removing of all ceilings on payment, eligibility and provident funds, and an increase in the amount of gratuity. While the Government counters this with an offer to increase the ceiling on bonuses, from Rs 3,500 to Rs 10,000 and increasing eligibility of such payments to workers earning up to Rs 20,000 a month.

At various points in time the government has assured trade unions that all labour reforms will be done through a tripartite consultation only. (The tripartite forum would consist of representatives from unions, government and employers). Ten CTU’s observed a 24-hr strike on 2nd September, bringing several government sectors to a standstill.

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