The 11th Bipartite Settlement was signed between Indian Banks Association (IBA) and 8 Unions (except BEFI) on 11th November 2020 preceded by Memorandum of Understanding on 22nd July 2020. Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) kept away from signing MoU, since there was lower loading (2.5%) and non-resolution of 5 day banking, enhancement of family pension, pension updation, family pension etc. “Enhancement of family pension” was included in the final settlement on 11.11.2020 and subsequently got implemented with the approval of the Government.
Two separate minutes
As the 11th Bipartite Settlement did not cover some of the long pending issues, the signatory unions raised the same with IBA and two separate minutes were exchanged between IBA and four workmen unions on 10th December 2020 and IBA and four officers unions on 4th January 2021 immediately after the Settlement. The common issues between these two sets of minutes include 5 day banking and pension updation.
Strike on 27th June
As there was no tangible improvement in any of these issues, on 8th June 2022, UFBU (United Forum of Bank Unions) decided to go for a day’s strike on 27th June 2022 by including two more vital issues viz. scrapping of NPS & coverage of all those who joined the bank’s services from 01.04.2010 under old pension scheme and extension of 11th Bipartite Settlement to the employees and officers of CSB and DBS banks. The strike call was preceded by poster campaign, badge wearing, demonstration, dharna which were well responded by the rank and file as well as retirees since the issues were dear to them which remained unresolved so long.
June 27th Strike deferred
During the conciliation meeting between IBA and UFBU on 21st June, there was no break-through as “IBA was not ready to give a firm commitment to resolve the demands within an agreed time limit as demanded by UFBU”. During the next conciliation meeting held on 23rd June IBA agreed for bilateral talks on 1st July 2022 without any commitment of time frame to resolve the issues and still the strike slated for 27th June was deferred.
Two important issues left out of discussions
On 1st July, bilateral talks were held at Mumbai between IBA and 8 signatory unions leaving BEFI. BEFI has already written letters to UFBU convener and the Chief Labour Commissioner questioning the logic of leaving BEFI for bilateral discussions with IBA. It is inexplicable to note that in UFBU circular regarding bilateral talks on 1st July, there was no mention about two important issues that were added during the UFBU meeting held on 8th June, namely scrapping of NPS and extension of 11th BP settlement to the employees and officers of CSB & DBS. When two State Governments have already scrapped NPS and opted for old pension scheme for those who were covered under NPS, how and why this issue was not discussed. When the submission of charter of demands for the 12th Bipartite is already due, how can two private banks say that they will not implement 11th Bipartite Settlement?
Outcome of 1st July talks
Regarding 5 day banking, the minutes between IBA and four workmen unions on 10th December 2020 read: “….the issue may be discussed further and keeping in mind the views of various other stake-holders including the Government of India, the issue will be addressed accordingly”, Even after 18 months, “IBA opined and felt that further justifications should be built upon the issue so that IBA can escalate the issue to the higher authorities and various stake-holders….”(UFBU circular dated 02.07.2022). It appears that IBA is not serious about implementation of 5 day banking. But there is every justification to clinch that issue immediately to maintain work-life balance of the staff members.
Regarding updation of pension, the minutes between IBA and officers unions on 4th Jan.2021 read: “IBA is actively evaluating the issue as demanded by the Associations, for which an actuary is appointed”. During the bilateral talks on 1st July, “ After a lot of discussions, it has been suggested that to begin with the Ex-Gratia Pension to pre-1986 retirees/spouses can be addressed on a priority and improvement in the pension of retirees between 1-1-1986 and 31-10-2002 to be taken up. Thereafter the improvement in pension for retirees after 1-11-2002 may be taken up so that the additional cost can be spread out….” (UFBU circular dated 02.07.2022). It is not clear whether the word “improvement” means updation.
Regarding pension updation, when actuary has already been appointed in Jan 2021, why the details of the actuarial calculations were not shared with UFBU? If pension updation is to be done in three phases when will full updation be completed? Those who retired between 1-1-1986 and 31-10-2002 are in the age group of 80-96 years. According to IBA, their updation will be taken up only in the second phase. When will that happen? There are many more questions in this regard.
UFBU needs to introspect
As this is time for submission of charter of demands for the 12th bipartite settlement, these issues have to be resolved in a time-bound manner much before 1st November 2022, the day the period of the 12th Bipartite Settlement begins.
In the ensuing session of the Parliament, the Union Government, in all probabilities, will bring a bill to privatize Public Sector Banks and that issue has also to be fought against. Nevertheless the issues of employees and retirees need to be resolved expeditiously. For that UFBU may have to take appropriate decision. Hope UFBU will introspect.