Bank Unions on Relay Strike From Tuesday After Talks Fail

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Mumbai: Banking services are likely to be affected for the next four days as employees of PSU banks plan to go on a zone-wise relay strike beginning with the southern region on Tuesday, after wage revision talks failed here on Monday.

The decision came after talks at a conciliation meeting called by the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner of Mumbai, the Indian Banking Association (IBA) and the United Forum of Banking Unions (UFBU) failed. The UFBU represents about five workmen unions and four officers’ associations.

Accordingly, the first phase of the relay strike would be held in southern part of the country on December 2, followed by northern India on December 3, eastern India on December 4 and western India on December 5.

“The government and the IBA want us to call off our strike and then participate in negotiations, which is not acceptable to us,” said UFBU’s convener for Maharashtra, Vishwas Utagi.

“They are not serious about wage revisions and so we are going ahead with our relay strike,” said Mr Utagi, who is also senior vice-president of the All India Bank Employees’ Association.

Bank unions, which have demanded an immediate wage revision, had observed a national one-day strike on November 12.

Besides wage revision, bank unions have also demanded a reduction in the number of working days of employees to five days from six days as well as regulated working hours for officers.

Banking sector wages and service conditions are governed by industry-level bipartite settlements signed between the IBA and unions.

The last bipartite settlement was signed on April 27, 2010 and was valid from November 1, 2007 to October 31, 2012. All banks which gave mandate to the IBA to negotiate on their behalf are parties to the settlement.

However, the IBA appealed to bank unions today, to call off the strike, urging them to return to the negotiation table.

“In recent years, while operating profits of state-owned banks showed some growth, their net profit has been declining. Staff expenses have gone up due to increases in dearness allowances which compensate for impact of inflation. As such, banks are not in a position to accept the union demand for a 23 per cent hike in salary and allowances,” IBA said in a statement on Monday.

IBA said that banks are required to implement Basel-III norms by 2018 for which additional capital has to be infused and raising capital from the market would require banks to better their profitability.

Considering the current paying capacity of banks, IBA has offered a 11 per cent hike in salary and allowances.

“However, the IBA is willing to negotiate further if unions or associations reduce their demand substantially from 23 per cent,” IBA said.

IBA also called the relay zonal strike from Monday “as unreasonable, unethical and unwarranted”.

“We appeal to unions or associations to give up the agitational path and return to the negotiating table,” the IBA statement said.

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