Wednesday 22 March 2017

Bank officers want pay equality with central govt officers

At a time when the government is contemplating cutting employee benefits to 10 laggard public sector banks, bank officers have demanded that they should be given revised basic pay at par with central government officers on the same principles of 7th Pay Commission.

The negotiations have not started yet, as not all banks have given the mandate to Indian Banks Association (IBA) to negotiate on their behalf. Meanwhile, United Forum of Bank Unions, the umbrella organisation of bank unions, is yet to appoint coordinator for negotiations. But unions on a standalone basis have started to demand high emoluments. 

At the end of December 2016, the gross bad debt of the banking system crossed ~6 lakh crore and the total stressed assets is estimated to be more than ~9.5 lakh crore.

The government on March 16 shot a letter to 10 banks stating that capital infusion in these banks would depend upon quarterly milestones and only after these banks sign a memorandum of understanding with unions to sacrifice employee benefits should there be a need.

The 7th Pay Commission had recommended overall 23.55% hike in basic plus allowances. The government had accepted 14.27% hike in basics, while the allowanced would have to be decided later. According to reports, allowances could be decided in this month itself.

The current wage pact comes to an end in October. The last wage negotiation, pending since 2012, was settled in May 2015 at 15% hike.

This time the government wanted to finish the process early and so it prodding banks to start the negotiation process, starting January of 2016, but banks dilly-dallied. Finally, in December 2016, the government shot its fourth letter to banks to start the process with the unions. Still, not all banks have given the mandate to the IBA. The State Bank of India (SBI), for example, will give the mandate to unions only after the merger process is over in April.

According to sources, 16 banks – all from the public sector - have given a mandate to the IBA to negotiate on behalf of banks. Five banks, including the SBI, Dena Bank and Bank of Baroda are yet to send mandate. The SBI will perhaps send in April after integration with associate banks, sources said.

The IBA will form panel and can start the negotiation with unions only after its gets all the mandate, an official at the IBA said.

The letter has gone to the IBA from by a joint committee of All India Bank Officers’ Confederation, All India Bank Officers’ Association, Indian National Bank Officers’ Congress and National Organisation of Bank Officers.

In their demand letter, these organisations have also demanded very steep hikes in dearness allowances (DA) and wage increases, for example, merger of special allowances with dearness allowance as on 31 October 2017, with existing basic pay. And have asked for a revised DA formula “with provision for automatic merger and improvement in compensation against price rise.”

Besides, an allowance “equal to amount of last drawn increment should be granted every year after reaching a maximum in the scale,” and “date of sanction of annual increments should be on January 1 and July 1 every year,” are also in the demand letter.

There are also such demands as two months’ salary to compensate expenses on transfer and payment of lump sum amount of transfer to meet the education expenses of children.

Out of 34 demands, there are provisions for improvement in leave travel concession and making the mode of entitlement as “air travel to all the officers, and executive class for senior executives.”

Also, the unions are back in their demand of five-day banking and Provident Fund calculation at the rate of 12% of the total salary and allowances. Plus gratuity at the rate of one month salary and allowances, without any ceiling. According to the income tax rules, provident fund is calculated only on the basic salary. Gratuity is calculated on 15 days basics. Besides, the unions want abolishment of new pension scheme and roll back to the old pension system.

“Unions always demand the moon and scale down to a laughable level,” said a senior officer who is part of a union. “Bank books have deteriorated since 2012 (when the last wage pact got implemented) and banks can’t do deficit budget like the government. What will happen is that government will refer the wage structure to the Pay Commission and unions will have absolutely no role in the process,” said the senior executive, who did not wish to be named.

If the commission gets to decide on bank pay, the chances of any hike will go for good, fear some union members.
Charter of demands

1. Revised basic pay at par with central govt officers 
2. Revised DA formula automatically adjusting price rise 
3. Allowance equal to last drawn increment to be granted every year after reaching maximum in scale
4. Two months’ salary to cover incidental expenses on transfer
5. Payment of lump sum amount on transfer to meet education expense of children
6. Leave fare compensation with entitlement of air travel for all officers and executive class for seniors
7. Provision for crèche facility/flexi timings/work from home for women employees
8. Five-day banking
9. Family should include father in law and mother in law, brothers and sisters (divorced or deserted)
10. PF to be calculated on total salary and allowances, not only on basic
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