Letter to BS: Negotiation between banking industry and unions is inadequate

Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s column “Who’s afraid of bank trade unions?” (November 25) highlights the inadequacies of the negotiation process between the banking industry and its unions. This is arguably the only industry in which officers and staff join hands to bargain; generally there are separate unions in other public sector undertakings. The negotiations continue for so long that by the time the new agreement is effective, the existing one comes to an end. Since they are with retrospective effect, unions prolong the talks without any apprehension of loss of pay, and to reap the harvest of lump sum payment. Realistically, a long delayed new agreement should take effect from a prospective date and payments must continue as per existing rates till then. 

The Indian Banks Association (IBA) has been trying to link pay with performance for the last so many years. It is uncertain whether the unions would agree to the proposed performance linked incentive of 4 per cent of pay. It should be done at least in the case of officers. As rightly pointed out it is unrealistic to load all banks with the same enhancement of pay, more so when it is delinked with performance. 

Lastly, IBA should bring up the issue of holidays for bank employees. They probably enjoy the highest number of annual holidays in Indian industry. Still, they also managed to add two Saturdays off every month in the last agreement. It is to be remembered that the facility of ATMs and net banking covers a limited number of customers and those in the rural and semi rural areas suffer a lot. It is time the Negotiable Instruments Act was also updated.

YY Chouksey, Pune

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