Treat Bank Employees with Dignity !

R.D. Bhardwaj “Noorpuri”

It is heard that 11 Central Trade Unions and a Workers’ Federation have called for a two day nationwide strike starting from 20th February, 2013, to protest against the government’s inaction on incessant price rise, violation of labour laws and also for expeditiously working out for an amicable / dignified settlement of their next wage revision, which stands due with effect from the 1st November, 2012. Through the print and electronic media, it is also heard that the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has on last Sunday appealed to the protesting central trade unions to withdraw their proposed two-days’ strike saying that the strike would cause an avoidable huge loss to the economy and inconvenience to the public through disruption of services.

Not only that, the Prime Minister has also requested his senior cabinet colleagues like – A.K. Antony, Sharad Pawar, P. Chidambaram and Mallikarjun Kharge to hold discussions with the striking unions so that some acceptable solution to both the trade unions and the government, could be found. The strike has been called jointly by the Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh (BMS), All India Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and other such organisations. The Independent Federation of Workers and Employees too have joined the protest and thus, around ten lakh employees of 26 public sector banks all over India are going to call off their work in protest against government’s apathy towards their demands. They are also opposing banking sector reforms and any plan for merger of banks.

While I appreciate the concern shown by the Prime Minister against this proposed strike, but it is also a matter of grave concern for the striking bank employees that the IBA hardly shows the required degree of concern and interest to their genuine demands. Not only that, let us take the case of our elected representatives. Has anybody ever heard in the past sixty five years of independence that the Members of Parliament or the Members of State Legislative Assemblies had to resort to holding any strike to get their salaries, perks and hordes of other allowances, revised? Never……… on the contrary, the public gets to know about it just in the evening news that the MPs salaries, perks, facilities and all other allowances have been enhanced by the government and all MPs have welcomed the revision by thumping the tables. The same scenario is often witnessed when it comes to revise the salaries, perks and all other allowances of the MLAs of any state assembly, though their performance is never ever subjected to any scrutiny by the members of the public and also that all this financial burden has to be paid at cost of the tax-payers’ money.

Then, why this step motherly treatment is often being meted out to the bank employees? It is also a matter of great concern for the government to ponder over that the wage revision of not only the banks that gets such a shabby treatment by the government, rather the whole financial sector gets affected by this delay due to irresponsible / lackadaisical attitude and behaviour of the government. The whole chain of wage revisions of banking sector gets derailed by delaying this wage revision. After banks, wage revision of RBI employees has to be negotiated / sorted out, then IDBI Bank employees, then IFCI, then LIC and UTI etc. etc. If you break the chain right at the beginning, the whole banking or financial sector’ system gets negatively affected by this delay; whereas, the government or the hundreds of other agencies do not wait for even a day in increasing the prices of so many essential items and commodities required by the people.

It has also been observed that the whole negotiations process gets unnecessarily dragged on for 30 to 36 months, till the settlement is finally signed by the IBA and the trade unions. The ways and means should be better explored to complete the whole process by shortening the time period – say within a maximum within six months, so that neither government should suffer huge financial losses due to recurrence of such strikes nor avoidable inconvenience should be heaped on the general public, besides cutting of the salaries of the striking employees can also be avoided.

In view of the above, it is my humble submission to the IBA and the government is that – the Bank employees should not treated the way they are being treated as of now. Please realise their problems and concerns and give them a patient hearing, listen to their grievances with a heart of genuine sentiments and dignity so that they may not have to resort to such means to get their due share of revision of wages and some other facilities etc. The employees may not be the representatives like MPs or MLAs, but their contribution in the national development cannot be denied or minimised; and they are also equal partners in nation-building, because they also discharge their duties in the right earnest.

Meanwhile, it is also interesting to note that the AITUC General Secretary, Gurudas Dasgupta had on the last Saturday said that it was for the first time all trade unions have come together for the two-day strike as “The Government has not taken any action to look into the problems of sky rise inflation, disinvestment in public sector units and non-implementation of the labour laws.“