By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Bank employees of the country are again up in arms against their management against their alleged highhandedness. To oppose these, which allegedly include unlawful and unfair actions of the bank managements against the employees, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) has already served a notice for all India bank strikes on November 19, that seems a certainty if November 16 negotiation fails.
It should be recalled that Indian Bank Association (IBA), in response to the strike notice, held a meeting with the AIBEA and concerned bank managements on November 5 in Mumbai. However, both sides remained adamant on their position and negotiation failed.
Thereafter the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) had called for a reconciliation meeting in Delhi on November 10, which also failed to reach any amicable solution, chiefly because bank managements did not attend this meeting. Only IBA representatives were present and therefore the contentious issues involving the employees and the managements could not be discusses making the solution out of the question.
However, CLC had advised the IBA and the AIBEA representatives to agree to hold one more round of meeting on November 16. If officials of bank managements again show their arrogance, as they had shown in the last meeting by not even attending it, AIBEA will be obliged to go on all India general strike in banks on November 19 for which they are already prepared.
AIBEA general secretary C H Venkatachalam has said if the managements attend the meeting and agree to resolve the issues amicably, the AIBEA may reconsider the strike call. If bank managements continue with their unlawful and vindictive actions and do not agree to maintain bilateralism, AIBEA will be left with no option but to go ahead with the strike call.
Since the strike call is supported by other associations and unions, especially by United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) representing all the bank unions, the November 19 strike is expected to halt almost all the banking operation in the country, if last negotiation bid on November 16 fail.
As per the strategy of the AIBEA, demonstrations will be held throughout the country on November 18 evening before the general all India bank strike on November 19. AIBEA is even planning to intensify the agitation and further protest strikes in case the issues are not resolved after the strike.
AIBEA general secretary Venkatachalam has said, “We explained the attack on employees’ rights and demanded correction but bank managements justified their position” at November 5 negotiation meeting held in Mumbai.
Under the Trade Unions Act and Industrial Disputes Act, the duly elected leaders of the Union can negotiate with the management. However, some managements are refusing this right even their decision is illegal and violation of labour laws, Venkatachalam has said.
Of late, some banks do not care for bilateral discussions and violate bipartite settlements through unilateral decisions. Bank employees are being routinely and periodically transferred from one station to another in violation of 2005 settlement between IBA and AIBEA that prescribes the procedure for transferring employees from surplus centres to deficit centres to correct staff imbalances.
AIBEA general secretary says, “Managements do not care of bipartite settlement. But in the meantime, some of the banks have started to transfer employees from one station to another, quoting the 2005 settlement which is restricted only for transfer from surplus to shortage areas.”
Venkatachalam says that in one bank more than 3,000 employees have been transferred out and the families of these employees have been put to undue hardship. Even lady employees, employees with major ailments, physical disabilities, with physically or mentally challenged children, and even care givers were transferred. Even in cases, where labour authorities have intervened, the management has ignored their advice, violated the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act and forcibly transferred the employees. It is why the issue of transfer has now become a major issue.
Another issue is the waning job security for bank employees. Bank managements have been demanding a settlement to outsource the regular and permanent jobs in banks on contract basis. As of now all the jobs in banks are permanent jobs, except Information Technology related technical jobs that are outsourced after an agreement between bank unions and bank managements in 2005. IBA has been in talk with bank unions to expand the scope and ambit of the agreement for outsourcing other jobs. Even during the last 11th bipartite negotiations IBA had wanted an amendment to the 2005 agreement to outsource non-IT jobs.
AIBEA does not agree to the demand of IBA to outsource non-IT jobs in banks. And hence, some of the banks have taken unilateral decision to hand over the permanent jobs, such as house-keeping, cash movement from branch to branch, etc to private contractor which are in violation of the 2005 settlement.
Bank managements are not even honouring judiciary and court judgements. There is a High Court decision that 2005 settlement provides only for transfer from surplus to deficit areas, but managements are not honouring it in their transfer decisions. There is also a Supreme Court decision that held that bank daily deposit collectors are to be treated as workmen. Delhi High Court has also ordered that deposit collectors are eligible for gratuity as per Gratuity Act. However, some of the banks do not care for the judgements. They refuse them to pay gratuity.
Venkatachalam has said that some managements are violating the provisions on disciplinary action, the Industrial Dispute Act, and principles of natural justice, and all in the name of taking disciplinary action. There is a looming threat of retrenchment of employees from jobs in the name of business rationalization. One leading bank has already retrenched 240 deposit collectors without even giving them retrenchment compensations. (IPA Service)