Bank unions revise demands, to seek pay rise of 20% at IBA talks

The United Forum of Bank Unions (UBFA) has said it will seek a 20 per cent pay hike when talks resume with the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) on August 29 to seal the 11th bipartite wage settlement. 

The key reason behind UBFA’s revised demand from the 15 per cent earlier is that the gap between what bank employees earn when compared to those in the government’s equivalent grade has widened. It was pointed that even after a 20 per cent pay hike, this difference will stand reduced only at the beginning of the scale, but it will still be at about half of the same at the end of it. 

A silver lining as matters stand is that the nine unions — both officers and workmen — which make up the UBFA have buried their differences and will be present in full strength at the IBA’s negotiating table. 

Sources pointed out the unions have realised that the wage settlement discussions have taken an inordinately long time, having begun in May 2017. The 10th settlement had elapsed in October 2017; and it had been agreed with the IBA that a new pact will be effective from November 2017. The finance ministry, too, had instructed that negotiations begin six months earlier from the date of expiry of the previous settlement. 

When talks were last held in June, all the four bank officers’ unions — the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC), All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA), The Indian National Bank Officers' Congress (INBOC), and the National Organisation of Bank Officers (NOBO) – had held separate talks with the IBA — a first of its kind. 

Their heartburn was that while the State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Punjab National Bank, Union Bank of India, and Indian Bank had given the mandate for talks up to the level of senior manager (Scale-III), other state-run banks were for all seven scales up to the general manager to be covered under it.

Cracks first started to appear within UFBU as both AIBOC and NOBO were peeved that the deal will only cover those up to the rank of assistant general managers. The officers’ unions wanted to include deputy general managers, and general managers as well. The IBA, on its part, was of the view that officers in these senior ranks were not unionised. Two more officers’ unions — AIBOA and INBOC — took the same stand later. 

What’s also off the table is the separate package being mulled for the five workmen’s unions — All India Bank Employees’ Association, the National Confederation of Bank Employees, Bank Employees Federation of India, Indian National Bank Employees’ Federation, and National Organisation of Bank Workers; and the four officers’ unions. 

While the 10th settlement in May 2015 (for the five-year period November 2012-17), saw a 15 per cent increase in wages, in the latest, the offer, as it stood from the IBA, was for an 8 per cent hike. While the unions had so far been firm that the starting point has to be the 15 per cent given out under the 10th settlement, the bargaining position has moved up to 20 per cent. 

The Reserve Bank of India’s report on the Trend and Progress of Banking (2017-18) shows lower growth in banks’ operating expenses in FY18 at 9.3 per cent over the 10.2 per cent in FY17, largely due to the rationalisation of bank branches and the rise of digital channels. The period also saw a sharp fall in the growth of the wage bill to 3.9 per cent from 6.8 per cent in FY17. 

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