By C.H. Venkatachalam
The 29th National Conference of All India Bank Employees Association which was held in Mumbai from May13th to 15th, 2023 concluded successfully. More than 3,000 Delegates and Observers from all over the country participated in the Conference. Notably, Delegates from all the States including from Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir took part in the Conference. Large number of young employees and women employees participated in the Conference.
The Public Session of the Conference was held on May 13th evening. P Sainath, noted journalist was the Chairman of the Reception Committee. In his welcome address, he said that the bank employees’ unions have been the frontline fighters supporting the rural crisis. He said that 4 lakh farmers have died in the last 10 years. India at the75th year of Independence is the most unequal country. About 4.5 million people died in the Pandemic. More than 750 journalists died due to Covid-19Pandemic. In the Human Development Report, Global Hunger Index, World Press Freedom Index, we have fallen desperately. But, in the Forbes List of Billionaires, we are third in the list. That is the ratio of inequality.
If India’s economy should survive, it would be because of the Public Sector Banks. If India could withstand 2008 economic crisis, it was because the bank employees fought privatisation attempts for 30 years. In 1990, there was no dollar billionaire in India. In 1994, India had 3 dollar billionaires. By 2012, India had 53dollar billionaires. In 23years, we had 56 dollar billionaires. In the next9 years from 2014, India has 166 dollar billionaires, that is 110billionaires since BJP came to power. In 10years, Gautam Adani’s wealth went up to 3400percent. After the scam got exposed, SBI and LIC pumped funds into Gautam Adani’s group.
Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary, AITUC, in her inaugural address recalled that AITUC was founded in1920 in Mumbai only. She narrated the struggles of AITUC not only for the betterment of the workers but also played a political role in the freedom struggle. She pointed out that due to the policies of the BJP government, there was distress in the all the sectors. Even though Central Trade Unions have been fighting against the neo-liberal economy since last more than three decades, the fight has become more intensified after the present government came to power as they have increased their pace of their reforms agenda.
She highlighted about the reforms agenda being pursued by the present government resulted in high unemployment rate, job losses, distress to farmers etc. She highlighted the meteoric rise of Gautam Adani during the Narendra Modi’s regime in Gujarat as Chief Minister and as Prime Minister since2014. She cautioned about the Labour Codes and its aim to marginalize the trade unions. She said that organised trade unions can create wonders through their agitations and strikes. Amarjeet Kaur said that unions should fight for the service conditions but we should also unite with all sectoral level trade unions against the attacks on the sovereignty of the nation, to defend the economy of the country from collapse etc.
She cautioned that the Labour Codes are brought only to reduce the bargaining power of the trade unions. The Labour Codes have been brought only to facilitate the international capital to invest in India and with the aim of “Ease of Doing Business”. But Labour Laws protect only the organised labour, unorganized workers do not get protection under labour laws. Still the unorganized workers, accounting for more than90 percent of the work force, have fought and participated in strike actions. There have been attempts to offer only marginalized security to organised workers. The attempts of the government are to reduce the resisting power of the trade unions. All These attacks against the trade unions are to be fought and struggles are to be launched to build a secular, democratic system in the country, she said.
The convention of all workers that was held on January 30, 2023, at New Delhi, decided to launch year-long programme to fight against the economic policies of the country that will culminate in a day’s strike. She exhorted AIBEA to participate in this struggle massively.
She concluded her speech by stating that the bank employees under the banner of AIBEA should fight against the economic policies of the government and to vote for such parties that will support the workers, bring religious peace and harmony and create an environment in the country that democracy will remain intact. She said that it is in the hands of the trade unions and we should rise upto such an occasion to save democracy and to save the public sector.
Pambis Kyritsis, General Secretary, WFTU, on behalf of 105 million workers of the WFTU, greeted the Conference. He said that AIBEA is a class oriented trade union taking up the issues that confront the bank employees and also in defending the trade union rights. When the workers are marginalized due to price rise, job losses, unemployment, the capitalists and the corporates are enhancing their assets. The trade union freedom, collective bargaining, the job security are at stake due to the wrongful policies of the governments the world over and India is no exception. The war in Ukraine has aggravated the problems of the workers not only in Ukraine but also in Russia and other countries.
WFTU calls upon the militant unions to protect the economy, trade unions and the workers rights from the monopoly capital. The bank and insurance sector play an important role in the economy of the countries and privatisation in banking system is the order of the day in the world. Attacks on wages, pension reforms, are to be fought against. Unfortunately, in India, the present government is following the rightwing policies of supporting the corporates, monopolies and the multinationals by marginalizing the labour laws. The present government is trying to privatise the public sector banks. He concluded by wishing the Conference all success.
Sanjeev Bandlish, Convenor, UFBU, addressed the Conference. He hoped that the Conference will discuss the issues that are confronting the bank employees especially the 5-day banking, Updation of pension etc., and come to such conclusions that will charter future course of action.
Sukhdev Singh, Kisan leader, said that in Punjab, tractors have become costly due to increase in GST and availing loan for purchase of tractors and pay the interest has become a difficult issue for the farmers. Earlier they used go to public sector banks for taking loans but now the private sector banks come to the farmers asking how much loan they want. This is the change but the rates of interest of the private sector banks are serviced. The present government is trying to handover the farm lands to the multinational corporates.
The crisis of farmers is not over yet. The struggle of the farmers goes on and, in this regard, the support of the workers is required. Climate change has affected the farmers more. There is a serious problem of food insecurity. The farmers fight is the fight of the workers and if all of us unite, we can change the entire system and their designs.
Foreign Delegates from Bank Unions from Brazil, Malaysia, Denmark, Egypt, Palestine, Belarus, Syria, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Cyprus participated in the Conference and extended their fraternal greetings.
In the Delegate Session, the Conference resolved that the attempts of the Government to privatise the Banks has to be resisted further, and called upon the members to be ready for struggles at short notice if the Government would move with their Bank Privatisation Bill. The Conference also decided to launch nationwide struggles including strikes to demand adequate recruitments in the Banks.
The Conference noted that the policies of the present NDA Government was totally anti-poor, anti-people, anti-farmers, and anti-workers. Hence the call was given for a countrywide campaign and struggles with the slogan to save the Banks to save the economy, to save the people, and to save our Nation. (IPA Service)