The employees and officers of CSB Bank, need to be greeted, who under the banner of CSB-UFBU continuously and valiantly fight the anti-people and anti-labour policies of this bank. CSB-UFBU is a unity move by members belonging to AIBOC, AIBEA, BEFI & INBEF. The next phase of agitation is the All India bank strike of 14 March 2022.
CSB Bank: A laboratory of anti-people banking policies
Catholic Syrian Bank is a old generation Kerala based private sector bank. It was in 2018, that the Mauritius based holding company Fairfax, a Canadian corporate institution, acquired 51% share of this bank and took over the complete control of CSB Bank. Ever since the transfer of ownership to foreign corporate, all its policies had become anti-people and pro-corporate.
The happenings in this bank are not encouraging. It is reported that the minimum balance for opening SB account in the bank is Rs.10, 000/-. Small loans have become a farce. The bank’s concentration is not on agricultural loans, educational loans and small business loans. The housing loan portfolio which was 342 crores in 2017 came down to 245 in 2021. The educational loan portfolio of this period was 178 crores and 77 crores respectively. At the same time corporate lending of the bank leaped from 942crores to 3600 crores in 4years. A broad reading of their business parameters shows the paradigm shift from mass to class banking, a pre-1969 era phenomenon.
Permanent employees are enemies and contract employees are slaves
Another area of concern is the proportion of permanent and contract employees. Total number of permanent employees of Catholic Syrian Bank was reduced to 1353. There are 1238 employees recruited on cost-to-company basis. The employees, including the women employees, recruited under IBA policy are harassed and victimized. Retirement age in all other banks is 60. But in CSB Bank, it was reduced to 58. By resorting to intimidation, harsh punishments and coercive VRS/CRS schemes, they are trying to forcefully push the permanent employees out of the bank.
Till 2017, there was not a single casual or contract employee in this bank. Now their number is 3533. Heads of various departments in Head Office and Zonal, Area and Branch Managers are contract employees. In a service sector like banking, which is functioning on the basis of confidentiality, deploying employees on such basis will be of disastrous consequences.
The wage revision implemented in all other banks from 2017 is denied to the employees of this bank. For the reasons stated, the CSB employees all over India are on agitation against these policies of the bank management.
A threat for future banking industry
CSB Bank experience tells us clearly what will be the style of functioning of a private sector bank in the days to come. The law permits 74% foreign equity in private sector banks. Even with 51% equity, the violations taking place in the bank and their attitude towards ordinary customers are alarming. Lakshmi Vilas Bank, an old generation private sector bank based in Tamil Nadu was totally taken over by a foreign bank namely Development Bank of Singapore. Thus, foreign private capitalist forces are strengthening their foothold in the Indian banking sector using the goodwill and credibility of old Indian financial institutions. The developments in CSB Bank is an indicator in that direction. Such developments are in consonance with the pro-corporate (Indian and foreign) policies of the Government.
Unity of bank employees and officers is the need of the hour
The best way to resist the bank specific wrong policies pursued by the respective bank managements is to build resistance by forming a joint forum of all employees / officers of those banks. Such a forum was formed in CSB Bank in 2021 and an all India strike was conducted on March 26, 2021. After that a three-day strike was conducted on September 29, 30 and October 1, 2021 giving sufficient notice and time to the bank management. On account of the utter disregard shown by the management towards the issues raised by the employees, the unions were forced to go for another three days strike on October 20, 21 and 22, 2021. Supporting this strike, all the employees of other banks in Kerala called for a strike on October 22, 2021. The stoic silence by the bank management had made the CSB-UFBU observe another strike action on 28th February to be followed by one more day’s strike on 14th March this year.
What is happening in CSB may happen in any other bank. Hence the bank employees and officers opine that in the event CSB management shows its reluctance in resolving the issues immediately, the apex level UFBU should extend solid support through organizational actions.