To all Units, Affiliates, Office Bearers, CC & GC Members
22nd July 2020
Bipartite talks – MOU signed – BEFI abstained from signing MOU
Another meeting of the Negotiating Committee was held today. The meeting took place in SBI, Corporation Centre at Mumbai. Direct flight connectivity from several cities to Mumbai remaining suspended, many of the constituents expressed desire to participate in the meeting through digital platform like video conferencing. Accordingly, IBA arranged for video conferencing in some centres apart from physical meeting. Out of 12 participants from UFBU, 3 comrades attended the meeting in person while the rest did so through video conferencing. The undersigned attended the talk today on behalf of BEFI through video conferencing from Kolkata.
In today’s meeting a Memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed whose salient features are mentioned herein below:
1. The wage revision will be effective from 01.11.2017.
2. The annual wage increase in salary and allowances will be 15% of the wage bill as on 31.03.2017.
3. The new pay scales will be constructed after merging Dearness Allowance corresponding to 6352 points.
4. Distribution of annual wage increase between Workmen and Officers will be worked out separately and proportionately based on break up of establishment expenses as on 31.03.2017.
5. The concept of Performance Linked Incentive (PLI) will be introduced as per a proposed matrix of individual bank’s performance and will be applicable from FY 2020-2021.
6. From 2020, 5 days PL encashment (7 days for those of 55 years of age and above) will be allowed per calendar year besides available facilities of PL encashment.
7. Bank’s contribution to the NPS fund will be 14% of Pay and Dearness Allowance from prospective date of signing the settlement subject to approval of the Govt.
8. The parties will endeavour to finalise the Bipartite Settlement/ Joint Note within a period of ninety days from the date of this minutes.
Bank Employees Federation of India did not sign the MOU. We had dissatisfaction on several issues which we pointed out in different rounds of negotiation including today; as also in successive UFBU meetings last of which was held yesterday.
We had our principled opposition to the introduction of PLI since beginning which we categorically expressed during the negotiation also. We apprehended that uniformity of wages and service conditions of the employees and officers across all banks covered under a particular settlement will be disturbed once PLI is introduced. The manifestation is already evident during the Covid-19 pandemic, when different banks extended different facilities for their employees, some of which attracting superannuation benefits. Even the leave matters during the Covid-19 pandemic have been left to individual banks disregarding industry level understanding including the ongoing one. Even after demand from UFBU to have a bilateral discussion on this matter the bankers did not pay any heed.
At the time of 10th Bipartite settlement, when Special Allowance (starting from 7.75%) was introduced; it was an understanding, within UFBU, that efforts will be taken to merge this with Basic Pay during 11th Bipartite Settlement. Accordingly, in common Charter of Demands, this was included and the issue was discussed in several rounds of negotiation. At one point of time, IBA was agreeable to merge a part of the Special Allowance. We experienced sudden change in approach of IBA in merging the Special Allowance since early this year on the plea of some court cases which started in 2016. We do not feel this to be a cogent reason for dropping the issue from negotiation. We suggested to keep the issue open for discussion which was not accepted by IBA.
IBA offered loading of meagre 2% like last settlement. Only difference was that during 10th BPS, it was offered abruptly by IBA, presumably discussing with some of the constituents keeping the others in the dark; this time it has been proposed by IBA from midway of the negotiation. After hours of negotiation today IBA did not agree beyond 2.50%. We suggested this factor for further discussion till distribution of the quantum takes place as was the practice all through till 9th BP Settlement. But IBA remained adamant in this matter also.
The issue of 5 day week has gained added dimension as a result of Covid-19 pandemic, when utilisation of digital platform in every sphere as well as work from home has become more and more popular. The usage of alternative delivery channels by the clientele across all banks have increased substantially during the last few years. We suggested to keep this issue open for further discussion and initiatives may be taken to convince the stakeholders. IBA, as usual, remained non committal in this regard.
During successive negotiations and UFBU meetings, we expressed our firm commitment towards issues of the retirees particularly in regard to Pension. In the matter of improvement of family pension, it was stated by IBA that recommendation has been sent to Govt. for necessary approval. The IBA Chairman himself appearing in the negotiation today narrated that IBA agreed in principle for increase of family pension to 30% without ceiling. We suggested for mentioning this in the MOU. But it did not find any place in the MOU. So far updation of pension is concerned; IBA did not share any data for actuarial calculation despite assurances given during the talks. Of late, they proposed for ad hoc increase to which BEFI expressed principled opposition from the word go. But none of these came into serious discussion due to indifferent attitude of the negotiating committee of IBA. We understand that updation of pension requires detailed calculation which may require some time. But during the whole three years of negotiation IBA did not come up with positive view. We suggested to include this in the MOU to continue necessary exercise and discussion in future; we had our experience regarding the ‘Record Note’ signed in 2015 which were never taken up for discussion in spite of our raising the issue time and again. We apprehended that if this issue do not find any place in the MOU, it will lose its relevance. Today IBA was not interested to discuss this issue.
We are concerned to note that on every single component of financial ingredients like percentage increase; loading; merger of special allowance; updation of pension; the IBA was sceptical about load on superannuation cost including provisioning for AS-15. It is a pity that the bankers have written off loans to the tune of Rs.4.5 lakh crore in last 4 years whereas only 10% of this has been recovered; recently we came to know that Rs.68000 crores has been waived off for the big defaulters like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and others; lakhs of crores of rupees are being drained as “hair cuts”. At the time of every wage revision, the bankers are discussing about paying capacity when the amount required is much lesser than what they provided for the corporate defaulters. We feel that issues related with Pension should not be treated as financial issue; rather it should be taken from a social perspective.
Comrades, we do appreciate that the negotiation for 11th Bipartite Settlement was not an easy task. From different corners, with tacit support of the ruling parties, the collective bargaining was challenged which was successfully countered by all constituents jointly. The bankers at different point of time contemplated to create differences among the constituents on several issues like mandate; 5 day banking etc. which was also foiled by UFBU. We are happy that barring signing of the MOU today, we could maintain unity within UFBU despite many odds. BEFI always remained consistent for unity within UFBU, at the same time it can’t afford to reconcile with the adamancy of the management at the cost of just and reasonable demands of the workforce. We are committed for the interests of the working as well as the retired employees. We’ll take all possible initiatives in the interest of both the sections of employees.
We are quite aware about the situation we are passing through. The Government of India, taking advantage of Lockdown have unleashed unprecedented attacks on lives and livelihoods of common people. They are contemplating to dismantle the working class movement by amending/ suspending labour laws. Wholesale privatisation of the public sector enterprises is the prime agenda of the ruling forces. Recently, we are coming across media reports almost everyday about Govt’s move for privatisation of public sector banks. In the wake of such situation united opposition is the need of the hour. We must take necessary initiatives at all levels to forge unity against Govt offensives.
(Debasish Basu Chaudhury)