Banking services likely to be hit as nationwide strike announced on Nov 19
If the issues raised by AIBEA in the strike notice are not resolved amicably, AIBEA will plan to intensify the agitation, says CH Venkatachalam, general secretary general secretary AIBEA
All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) has given the call for all India bank strike on November 19, against various increasing attacks in the banks.
Ever since AIBEA was founded in 1946, it had been fighting for the right to collective bargaining and right to negotiations. After a long struggle for 20 years, AIBEA could succeed and achieve direct negotiations with the banks and signed the first industry-level bipartite settlement in 1966 covering 45 banks - 26 A Class Banks, 9 B Class Banks and 10 C Class Banks.
From 1966 till now, AIBEA has secured 11 bipartite settlements covering employees' wages, service conditions, working of banks, improvement in customer service, technology and computerization, etc. Thus the main plank of industrial relations in banks is bilateralism. Based on the same, in every bank bilateral agreements have come to govern the service conditions of employees. Of late, it is observed that some of the banks do not care for bilateral discussions and violate bipartite settlements through unilateral decisions. For example, in 2005, a settlement was signed by AIBEA and Indian Banks Association (IBA) prescribing the procedure for transferring employees from surplus centres to deficit centres to correct staff imbalances. This settlement does not provide for routine and periodical transfer of employees from one station to another.
Hence employees are transferable within the same station from one branch to another, except in banks where there are specific agreements. The IBA is engaged with AIBEA and other apex Union to expand the scope of the 2005 settlement. So far, no fresh settlement has been signed.
Talking to Bizz Buzz, CH Venkatachalam, general secretary, AIBEA, 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."
This is a clear violation of the bipartite settlement of 2005. 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, employees with physical disabilities, employees who have physically or mentally challenged children and who are caregivers, etc. have been transferred out. Even where the labour authorities have intervened, the management has ignored their advice, violated the provisions of Industrial Disputes Act and forcibly transferred the employees. Hence it has become a major issue.
Court judgement not respected: Even when a High Court has given the judgement that 2005 settlement provides only for transfer from surplus to deficit areas, the management is persisting with the violation and unilateral decision.
Understanding and commitment not honoured: When the union agitated, the management of the bank came forward and agreed to resolve the issue through mutual understanding. Unfortunately, even these understandings and commitments are not being honoured.
If AIBEA's bipartite settlement is not respected by the bank and persists with the violation to harass the employees, AIBEA has no option than to resort to strike action to express its protest.
Bank managements have been demanding a settlement to outsource the regular and permanent jobs in the banks on contract basis. Today all the jobs in the banks are permanent jobs. After discussions, Unions signed an agreement in 2005 that IT related jobs for which in-house capability is not available can be outsourced. IBA has been talking to the Unions to expand the areas of outsourcing. In the last eleventh bipartite negotiations also IBA wanted amendments in the 2005 settlement. But recently, some of the banks have taken decision to hand over permanent jobs like house-keeping, cash movement from branch to branch, to private contractors. This is violation of the settlement of 2005. Outsourcing is a bilateral issue. But banks want to decide unilaterally.
Supreme Court judgement not honoured: Supreme Court has held that bank daily deposit collectors are to be treated as workmen. Delhi High Court bench has ordered that deposit collectors are eligible for gratuity as per Gratuity Act. But some of the banks do not care of these judgements and are refusing to pay gratuity to the deposit collectors. In the name of taking disciplinary action, some of the managements are violating the provisions on disciplinary action, violating the ID Act, violating principles of natural justice, he said.
In some of the banks, there are threats of retrenchment which will affect the jobs and job security of the employees. In the name of business rationalization, employees are sought to be retrenched. One leading bank has retrenched 240 deposit collectors without even giving them retrenchment compensation. Simply the deposit collectors have been thrown to the streets.
Trade Union rights are denied: Under the Trade Unions Act and Industrial Disputes Act, the duly elected leaders of the Union can negotiate with the management. Some managements are refusing this right even their decision is illegal and violation of labour laws.
To oppose these unlawful and unfair actions of the bank managements, and to protest against these attacks, AIBEA has given the call for All India strike on November 19.
In response to the strike notice, IBA – Indian Banks Association held a meeting with the AIBEA and concerned bank managements on November 5 at Mumbai.
According to Venkatachalam, "We explained the attacks and demanded correction but bank managements justified their position."
Thereafter, on November 10, Chief Labour Commissioner called for a conciliation meeting at Delhi. Unfortunately, bank managements did not attend this meeting. Only IBA was present. Hence the issue could not be discussed or resolved. As per the advice of CLC, IBA has agreed to hold one more round of meeting on November 16. 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 than to go ahead with the strike call. UFBU supports the strike: Already United Forum of Bank Unions representing all the bank unions has extended its support to our strike and demonstrations will be held throughout the country on November 18 evening before the strike on November 19. If the issues raised by AIBEA in the strike notice are not resolved amicably, AIBEA will plan to intensify the agitation and further protest strikes will be organized, he said.